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 © 2020 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 © 2020 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.

Click here to join the Wellness Weekend link up and share your wellness updates.

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

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

Click here to join in on the fun and share your wellness-related post, or let me know what you’re looking forward to in spring. I’d love to hear your comments.

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

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.

Click here to join in the Wellness Weekend 2020 link-up and share your wellness-related post. As your host, I will read your blog and leave a comment. For a full schedule of all Wellness Weekends in 2020, please see my Wellness page here.

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

Hiking to Peguche Waterfall

Welcome to the first Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020! I hope the first eighteen days of January have gone well for everyone and you’ve got some time to warm up before tackling your New Year’s plans with gusto. I’ve posted the full list of Wellness Weekend link-up dates and optional prompts here for future reference.

Why Warm Up?

A warm-up is helpful at the beginning of a fitness session to get our mind and body ready for subsequent and more intense activities. In my previous post, I shared that one of my ten favourite experiences in Ecuador is hiking. The first hike that my sister and I did is an easy hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo. It’s our warm-up hike to prepare us for more strenuous hikes later on.

About Peguche Waterfall

Peguche waterfall is 5 minutes northwest of the city of Otavalo which is located 110 km north of Quito and 2530 meters above sea level. Peguche waterfall is a sacred place in the culture of the indigenous peoples of Otavalo.

I categorize this hike as Easy because the trail is flat and well-defined. The length of the trail is just right (about 3 km return). There are a few points of interest along the way, and the highlight is a beautiful waterfall. Otavalo’s spring-like climate in December also makes it ideal for hiking. So we headed to Peguche trail.

Welcome sign to Peguche waterfall

Once we entered the Peguche trail, we were surrounded by beautiful tall trees and lush green shrubs. The winding path was easy to walk on. Mosses and lichen covered the low rock walls that protect the trees from foot traffic.

Trail to Peguche waterfall

The trail is about 1.5 km long. It took us about twenty minutes to reach the bridge that faces the waterfall. Peguche waterfall is a beautiful waterfall of 18 m in height, formed by the river of the same name, which starts at Lake San Pablo. The lush green vegetation embraces the waterfall. The clouds moved in and out to give us some sun.

Peguche Waterfall

We stood on the bridge for a while to enjoy the views before walking up the paths along both sides of the falls to reach the Lookout platform (Mirador), and onto some big rocks to get closer to the waterfall. We could feel great volumes of mist from the powerful waterfall.

Peguche waterfall

The local people name Peguche waterfall Forest Protector (Bosque Protector), because all of the trees get their water from the waterfall’s mists and the downstream gushing water. On the night of the summer solstice, the waterfall becomes the privileged place for community ritual bath, as a first step to celebrate the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi).

Peguche waterfall downstream

As we walked along the trail, I could hear bird songs and spotted a number of plants with pretty flowers. There were also lots of ferns and orchid plants that cohabit with tall eucalyptus trees. The sun came out and everything glowed.

Peguche trail

Outside the Peguche trail, to the left is the Sun Dial (Inti Watana) site, also known as the Solar Calendar. The site includes a round adobe wall with a sun dial in the centre. People from different communities come together to offer their crops to the Sun god (Inti), and celebrate the summer solstice here.

Inti Watana in Peguche
Sun dial in Peguche

It was a nice short hike on a beautiful morning in Peguche. Altogether we did about 3 km return trip (about 2 miles). We learned something new about Peguche waterfall. The warm-up hike and nature gave me new energy. I looked forward to more hiking in Ecuador. Happy trails!

Trail from Peguche waterfall

Click here to join in the Wellness Weekend 2020 link-up and share your wellness-related post. As your host, I will read your blog and leave a comment 🙂

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