Thursday, 27 April 2017

Spring list update

On March 22, 2017, I posted my Spring activity list of twenty activities. Today I’m joining several fun bloggers to post an update. Be sure to scroll down to see the links to their blogs. It's my first time linking in so I hope I've got it right.

Let’s see how I’m doing with my list of twenty:

    1.    Exercise in the gym three times per week. In progress! I give myself an A+ on exercising regularly even though some of the exercises are challenging. I do it in the morning before I talk myself out of it. 😀
    2.    Practice yoga twice per week. In progress! I really enjoy practicing yoga, and doing it twice per week feels like rest days to me.
    3.    Go for a long walk outdoors once per week. In progress! I realized that I should have quantified my walk distance. I walk outdoors every week, about 5 km each time. I limit my walk to 5 km to save time for other activities. We’ve been getting frequent April showers during the week but sunny weekends here. A day like in the attached picture is just perfect for walking.


    4.    Learn Spanish online fifteen minutes daily. In progress! I’m learning new nouns, verbs and verb tenses. I’m doing this casually to prepare myself for a trip to Costa Rica in June.
    5.    Sign up early for a 5K running race in September. Not yet. I’ll make sure to register before June 1 when the registration fees will increase.
    6.    Co-ordinate my parents' move to their new home. Check! So glad it went smoothly, and they’re settling in nicely.
    7.    Meet up with my sister from out of town. Not yet. She’s coming on April 29. Can't wait!
    8.    Enjoy a family weekend getaway. Check! We went away the weekend of April 22-23 to stay at a B&B about 30 km west of Toronto. The weather was sunny on both days and warm on Sunday. It was a nice and relaxing break from our routine.
    9.    Celebrate two family birthdays. Not yet. They are coming up in May and June. There will be cakes!
    10.    Share some decadent chocolate with my family. Check! We try not to make this a habit, just special treats now and then.
    11.    Call to chat with my friend on her birthday. Check! So much fun to catch up and share a few hearty laughs.
    12.    Go for coffee with a friend. Check! We met up at Dineen Coffee place, rated #4 coffee places in Toronto by Trip Advisor. I enjoyed every drop of my cappuccino.


    13.    Write to my friends overseas. Check! Glad to hear my friends and their families in Europe are all well. I dream of taking a round the world trip in winter 2019, going somewhere warmer than Toronto, and visiting my friends who live in different countries.
    14.    Complete bookings for our trip to Costa Rica in June-July. Check! I booked air tickets, transportation, and accommodation in San Jose. I’ve been to Playa Grande in Costa Rica before. Look forward to visiting another part of this country.
    15.    Start booking a second trip for the summer. Not yet! I’ll do this as soon as I sort out the renovation schedule of my investment property which is a new addition to my "to do" list.
    16.    Read about my summer travel destinations. In progress. If you have suggestions for where to stay and eat in Madrid, Andalusia, Budapest or Prague, I’m listening!
    17.    Post once a week on my blog. In progress! So far so good. I actually posted more than once per week in April.
    18.    Get a haircut before going to Costa Rica. Not yet. I’ll get it done by mid-June. My hair is low maintenance so this is easy to take care of.
    19.    Declutter my closet. Check! Feel good for getting this done. I can see my clothes and some empty space in my closet (yay!). Even feel more proud that I have not bought a new clothing item since January 1, 2017. I have some good quality clothes that I should really wear them out before buying new.
    20.    Donate twenty unused items. Check! I marked in my calendar to do a quarterly review and donate what I do not use.

All in all, I’m happy I got nine items checked off, six have been underway, and five to do. Now for more fun reading, please visit the links below and see how Tamara, Leslie, Sheila, Katie, Dani, Ashley and Michael Ann have tackled their Spring bucket lists. Join in on the fun, too.

Tamara at My Retirement Project
Leslie at Once Upon A Time & Happily Ever After
Sheila at Making The Most of Every Day
Katie at The Mishaps and Mayhem of a Solitary Life
Dani at Family Love Inspiration Education
Ashley at Perks of Ponder
Michael Ann at Out and Back

Happy Spring!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Saturday thoughts 2017/04/22


A Saturday morning post as we’re heading for our weekend getaway, returning home late on Sunday evening. The above floral arrangement was a rushed job and was easy to make.

I had a busy week and got a few mini pop up projects at home that require me to do extra thinking and planning. I’m looking forward to enjoying our family getaway this weekend.

Happy I’ve accomplished the following this past week:

Fitness:

  • Exercised each weekday morning (gym three times and yoga twice).
  • Continued indoor swimming on Saturday and increased the number of laps from thirty four last week to thirty six this morning. Feeling invigorated after my swim!
  • Learned Spanish fifteen minutes daily, currently learning new nouns and verbs, present, past and future tenses.

Family:

  • Recycled or disposed some of the furniture that my parents no longer wanted to keep. I had to hire movers to do this so it was a mini project.
  • Kept up with my own family routine: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up, laundry, and general home maintenance.

Frugal win:

  • Saved money by completing my 2016 income tax return myself. I have never paid someone else to do it so I am unsure how much I save but I’m sure I saved.

Fun:

  • Tried a new casual eating place called Alexandro's World Famous Gyros. The chicken gyros on a pita was fresh, tasty and filling for under CAD$7 (US$5). The gyros we had in Athens were better and bigger though.

What I look forward to this coming week:

  • Making it another productive week.
  • Jazz on Friday evening!

How was your week? What do you look forward to this coming week?

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sunday thoughts 2017/04/16


On Getting Help:
My parents are elderly and were unable to take charge of the move themselves so it was up to us, their children, to take care of the details. I asked for and received family help for the move. For this I’m grateful.

I dealt with three companies, one for the bin rental and moving supplies, one for the moving truck and movers, and one for cable TV and Internet service. The staff who spoke with me on the phone from all three companies were friendly and helpful, without sales pitch. The workers who I met in person smiled and acted professionally. I appreciated their smiles and good work. I now have some restored faith on good customer service.

On To-Do Lists:
I usually have a short to do list for my daily living. As soon as we knew my parents would be moving, I prepared an additional to do list for their move. I noted what needed to be done in an electronic file, went through the list almost daily, and changed the font colour of completed items so I could see visually what was still outstanding. If I had not done this, I would have forgotten something. I’m happy that the move went smoothly, my parents are settling in their new home, and that to do list is now closed so I can focus on my own list!

On Letting Go:
Packing and unpacking for my parents reminded me about the importance of letting go of material things that are not meaningful or no longer useful. Small additions of stuff over time create clutter that is time-consuming and emotionally draining to clear. So just like saving money, decluttering needs to be done regularly, even in small amounts. A good defence would be to let into my home only things that are meaningful or useful.

Happy I’ve accomplished the following this past week:

Fitness:

  • Exercised each weekday morning, except Thursday when the move was scheduled.
  • Continued indoor swimming on Saturday and increased the number of laps from thirty to thirty four.
  • Ran 5 km in about thirty minutes on Sunday. I could spend thirty minutes surfing the Internet but chose to run. Either way the time was gone. By choosing to run, I felt invigorated afterwards, and was rewarded with naturally rosy cheeks (ha)!
  • Learned Spanish fifteen minutes daily.

Family:

  • Completed my parents’ move while maintaining my own family routine.
  • Enjoyed a relaxing Good Friday/ Easter long weekend with my family.

Fun:

  • Entered the Ultimate KitKat Tasting giveaway on Laura’s The Occasional Nomads blog.
  • Thinking and reading about visiting Gibraltar, Spain, and/ or Central Europe (Budapest, Bratislava and Prague).

What I look forward to this coming week:

  • Making it another productive week.
  • Having a fun family weekend getaway.

How was your week? What do you look forward to this coming week? Please feel free to share any travel tips you may have on Gibraltar, Spain, and Central Europe.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A fine Friday

Today is my rest and relaxation day! There I declared it.

Last Sunday, we packed most of my parents’ belongings. Wednesday evening, we packed all the last minute items. Yesterday (Thursday) was Move day. Starting at 9 in the morning, I was at the Source address to oversee the movers and my sister was at the Destination address to receive. The two addresses are about 32 km (20 miles) apart so my sister and I kept each other informed by phone.

I’m happy to report that the move went smoothly. The movers came on time. After I gave them a brief overview of what needs to be moved, they gave me two compliments “Your parents are lucky!” and “You’re so organized”.  Smart movers!

Once the movers finished loading and left the Source address, I had a quick lunch, then went to the Destination address to unpack with my sister. It was a lot of work but we got all the essentials done by dinner time.

Today I resumed my morning routine: Breakfast, Spanish lessons, and workout in the gym. Preparing for a move and moving are disruptive so it felt nice to have my normalcy back. After lunch, we went for a walk along the lakefront to enjoy a perfect spring day.

On our walk, I was looking out for spring flowers and will share a few pictures of what I captured with my camera here. Tulips, daffodils, and pansies are all signs of spring in Toronto. So nice to see them.

Tulips at a florist shop
Tulips, pansies and more
Daffodils, tulips and more
The sky was clear blue, the birds were tweeting everywhere, and people were out and about, soaking in the sunshine. The ferries were busy shuttling passengers from the city side to the Centre Island side and back.

Toronto ferries
It’s a fine Friday after all. Have a great weekend where you are!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sunday thoughts 2017/04/09

We had a sunny weekend with spring temperatures that were perfect for being outdoors, getting some fresh air, seeing small flowers poking out of the ground, and listening to the bird sounds.


Happy I’ve accomplished the following this past week:

Fitness:
  • Exercised each weekday morning (gym three times and yoga twice).
  • Resumed indoor swimming and did 30 laps on Saturday morning.
  • Walked 5.6 km (3.5 miles) outdoors on Sunday morning and enjoyed the sunshine.
  • Learned Spanish fifteen minutes daily.
Family:
  • Received the rental bins and moving supplies as ordered for my parents’ move.
  • Packed my parents’ stuff to be ready for the move next week.
  • Made phone calls to re-confirm essential services for my parents at their new home.
  • Got the routine house chores done for my own family: laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up. My DH also pitched in.
  • Enjoyed meals at home with my family.
Friends:
  • Went out for cappuccinos with a close friend.
  • Called another dear friend to wish her a happy birthday.
Fun for myself:
  • Browsed the plants and flowers at the local garden centre.
  • Thought about new floral arrangements and how I can make them.
  • Researched and read more on potential travel destinations.
  • Wrote about my trip to Lisbon and Sintra on my blog.
What I look forward to this upcoming week:
  • Making it another productive week.
  • Finishing my parents’ move to their new home.
  • Enjoying the long Good Friday/ Easter weekend with my family.
How was your week? What are you looking forward to next?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Lisbon and Sintra in 3 days

Having been to several well known European cities such as Athens, London, Paris, Amsterdam, I was interested in visiting Lisbon for three days, before we moved on to the Algarve for a family beach vacation.

My first impressions of Lisbon were that it was easy to navigate Lisbon by metro trains, trams or walking. The city was clean, local residents were friendly, and the food was good. Hotel accommodations in Lisbon were also less expensive than in London, Paris or Amsterdam.

On Day 1, we took the tram to Belem to see the Tower of Belem and the Jeronimos Monastery. UNESCO declared both the tower and the monastery World Heritage Sites in 1983. The Tower of Belem was built between 1515 and 1519. It was fun to explore each floor of the tower and see the views from the lookouts. The Jeronimos Monastery was built between 1501 and the end of the 16th century. Take a look at the intricate work above the entrance to the Jeronimos Monastery in the picture below.

Tower of Belem, Lisbon
Tower of Belem, Lisbon


Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon
Above the entrance of the Jeronimos Monastery
On Day 2, we took the tram again and from the tram stop, walked uphill to Castle St. George (Castelo de S. Jorge) which was built in the mid-11th century. The view from the castle was fantastic. We were able to visit the Black Chamber (or the Dark Room) at the Castle to see 360 degrees detailed view of Lisbon in real time.

Map of Castle St. George, Lisbon
View of Lisbon from Castle St. George
Castle St. George wall
Castle St. George
After lunch in the Alfama neighbourhood, on Day 2 afternoon, we visited the Lisbon Oceanarium (Oceanario de Lisboa) which is the second largest aquarium in Europe, after the L’Oceanografic in Valencia, Spain. It was a well-designed aquarium that I’d recommend to others to visit.

Lisbon Oceanarium
On Day 3, we took a train from the Rossio train station in Lisbon to Sintra. The ride was about 30 minutes long. From the train station, we took a bus that went uphill with a few stops along the way. We visited the beautiful Pena Palace (another UNESCO World Heritage site), the Castle of the Moors, and the town of Sintra itself. There are a lot to see and explore here so give yourself a full day.

Pena Palace in Sintra
Pena Palace in Sintra
Pena Palace in Sintra
Castle of the Moors in Sintra
Castle of the Moors in Sintra
While walking around in Lisbon, I saw these ceramic, brightly painted roosters everywhere, and bought one as a souvenir. I learned about the story of the Rooster of Barcelos (or “Galo de Barcelos” in Portuguese), which symbolizes honesty, integrity, trust and honor. Some people also believe that it brings luck and happiness.

Rooster of Barcelos, Portugal
My other fond memories of Lisbon are the tile work seen on many of the houses, and the Portuguese custard tarts (Pasteis de Nata) for dessert. I bought two coasters with the tile inserts for my kitchen use.

Tile facade in Lisbon
Coasters with tile inserts from Lisbon
Fortunately, there is a well-established Portuguese community in Toronto so I can still buy the custard tarts as treats once in a while.

Have you been to Lisbon or Sintra? Tell me about your visit!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday thoughts 2017/04/02


I started writing about what I accomplished last week, then went on to think about the month of March, and the first quarter of the year so this post will be a wrap up of my first quarter of 2017, with some highlights of what I’ve accomplished this past week.

Fitness:
  • Happy I got my daily exercise in through the winter months from January to March. During the week, I usually workout in the gym three times, and do yoga twice, an hour each time. On weekends, I do brisk walks on Saturday and Sunday, 4 km (2.5 miles) or longer depending on the weather. Yesterday I walked about 5 km (3.2 miles) and today 7 km (4.4 miles). I like the feelings of being alive and warm after each workout.
  • Happy to learn Spanish online, fifteen minutes daily, and to read about various topics, to give my brain its dose of learning something new on a regular basis.

Finance:

  • Happy all is in good order. Other than housing and food expenses, I paid for our tickets to Costa Rica in June, and hardly spent on anything else.

Family and Friends:

  • Happy my own family is healthy.
  • I had concerns for my parents’ health in February, and am coordinating their move to their new home. I’m grateful for having a close knit family, and a good health care system.
  • I wrote to two of my dear friends overseas this past week to share our life updates. Happy to hear all has been well with them. We used to write letters but have moved onto use email. I’m grateful to have close friends even though some of them have moved away.

Fun:

  • I saw a few movies on DVD, and a few art exhibits this winter. All were either free or low cost entertainment.
  • I just realized I’ve been maintaining this blog for about six months. It’s a fun creative outlet for me, 19 posts written in 2016 and 17 posts in 2017 so far, including this one. It’s so nice to receive positive comments from other bloggers. I hope my posts and pictures bring some fun to your day 😊
  • This past week, I sorted my photos and wrote a post on my visit to Athens. This task brought back nice memories and took my mind back to Greece. I love to visit ancient sites. Travel is still one activity that I’m passionate about. I can’t think of any other activity that engages all my five senses like travel. So I will continue to read about places, dream, and make some of my travel dreams come true.
  • I entered the Bird Cookies (Hato Sabure) giveaway on Laura’s The Occasional Nomads blog. Visit her blog to read about her recent trip to Japan, and remember to enter the giveaway to win. I receive one additional entry for mentioning her blog here.

Not so fun but necessary:

  • I decluttered my closet (yay!) and donated more than twenty clothing items. This past week I put away my dark winter clothes and brought my lighter spring clothes to the forefront in my closet. The seasonal clothes are now more accessible and I see more colours on display.
  • I added a recurring note in my calendar to “curate” my closet quarterly, starting this March so the next round will be at the end of June, then September, and so on. The quarterly curate should make the task much smaller and quick to do.
  • I spent time doing my regular house chores: grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, recycling, etc.

What I’m looking forward to next week:

  • Making next week another productive week.
  • Calling my friend to wish her a happy birthday and catching up. This is another friend that I treasure. We always have so much to talk about.

Now your turn...How was your week? Any big plan for Spring?

Friday, 31 March 2017

Athens in 3 days

One of my dreams came true when we visited Athens, the capital city of Greece, for three days, about two years ago. It was a stopover as part of a longer trip.

I booked a room at the Attalos Hotel for our stay.  I chose the hotel since it is a direct metro ride from the Athens International Airport, and is within walking distance to the major sights in central Athens. I receive no commission to mention the hotel name here on my blog.

We flew overnight from Toronto and arrived in Athens the following morning, around 10 local time. It was easy to follow the airport signage and buy the metro ticket to get on the local train. The ride from the airport to Monastikari station was comfortable and we experienced using public transit as Athenians do. Our hotel was about five minutes walk from Monastikari station. Check in was quick. Our room was clean and quiet. The hotel has a roof top patio bar with a nice view of the Acropolis.

With only three days to spend, we made the most of our time in Athens. We visited some of the glorious ancient temples such as the Acropolis and its iconic Parthenon, Ancient Agora, and Roman Agora. We did people watching at Monastikari Square and Syntagma Square. We enjoyed delicious and inexpensive Greek food at various small restaurants. We walked everywhere and just enjoyed being in Athens.

I’ve attached some of my favourite pictures from my visit:

Parthenon 447-438 B.C.
The Acropolis at night
Beautiful stadium at the Acropolis
Old Temple of Athena
The Erechtheion 421-406 B.C.
Ancient Agora in Athens
View of the Acropolis Museum
More Greek columns
Entrance to Roman Agora
Roman Agora ruins
A cat at Roman Agora
Monastikari Square
So much history, ancient architecture, and a vibrant city to experience. I hope you enjoy my picture selection. Have you been to Greece? Would you visit Athens?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sunday thoughts 2017/03/26

I had a productive week by staying focused and positive. There were tasks that I prefer not to do but I’ve talked myself into finishing them. Disciplined 1, Lazy 0 :-)

Happy I accomplished this past week:
  • I completed my one-hour exercise every weekday (workouts in the gym on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and yoga on Tuesday and Thursday).
  • I walked briskly for 4 km (2.5 miles) on Saturday and another 4 km today even though it was rainy and soggy on Saturday, and grey and windy this morning.
  • I learned Spanish online fifteen minutes every day. I actually did more than fifteen minutes on some days.
  • I saved more than I spent. My biggest discretionary expense will be travel! I look forward to travelling again soon.
  • I’m checking off my “to do” list for my parents’ move next month. I ordered moving supplies and booked movers for them. I also arranged for health care and utility services at their new address.
  • I got my regular house chores done (e.g. laundry, groceries, cleaning, cooking, etc.). A vacation from all of this is welcome!
  • I decluttered my closet while listening to music to make the task less tedious. The closet is now neater and has empty space.
  • I donated clothing items to the Salvation Army.
  • I made a Spring activity list, and changed the display theme of my blog, from white background to charcoal background. I like the contrast but is it too much? Please let me know what you think.
Good things that happened this weekend:
  • My DH baked home made cookies. The aroma and freshly baked cookies are simply wonderful. Our coffee chat time is fun and priceless.
  • I had a frugal win at the local grocery store: A $8.19 refund and a free 16-pack yogurt due to a scan code error. Glad I checked my receipt before leaving the store.
  • Warm family time at home on a Sunday afternoon while the wind is gusting outside.
What I’m looking forward to next week:
  • Making next week another productive week.
  • Taking time out to visit a contemporary art gallery.
  • Reflecting on the first quarter of 2017 and planning for the next quarter.
  • Putting some creative ideas that have been dancing in my mind into words and pictures (e.g. Write about my visit to Athens or Lisbon, and post some pictures.)
How was your week?

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Spring activity list

Every spring, I see these plants and flowers in my neighbourhood. I like the light yellow colour.


Spring is the season for new beginnings or to resume activities after a long hibernation in the winter months. I have 20 items on my Spring Activity List, mostly under the categories of Fitness, Family, Friends, and Fun.
  1. Exercise in the gym three times per week.
  2. Practice yoga twice per week.
  3. Go for a long walk outdoors once per week.
  4. Learn Spanish online fifteen minutes daily.
  5. Sign up early for a 5K running race in September.
  6. Co-ordinate my parents' move to their new home.
  7. Meet up with my sister from out of town.
  8. Enjoy a family weekend getaway.
  9. Celebrate two family birthdays.
  10. Share some decadent chocolate with my family.
  11. Call to chat with my friend on her birthday.
  12. Go for coffee with a friend.
  13. Write to my friends overseas.
  14. Complete bookings for our trip to Costa Rica in June-July.
  15. Start booking a second trip for the summer.
  16. Read about my summer travel destinations.
  17. Post once a week on my blog.
  18. Get a haircut before going to Costa Rica.
  19. Declutter my closet.
  20. Donate twenty unused items.
Hope you're enjoying the season. Have you got a list to share?

Update - For additional fun Spring Bucket Lists: