Monday, 24 July 2017

Northern Passages festival and family BBQ

I wrote about my weekend fun last Monday. Happy to say the trend continued this past weekend!

On Saturday, I completed my lap swimming, Spanish lessons, and our weekly grocery runs in the morning. The weather was perfect for being outdoors so we packed our picnic basket and headed to the waterfront for the afternoon. The trees are lush green now, compared to their slim branches in April. We found a nicely shaded picnic spot and just relaxed for a couple of hours. Our goal was to finish all food and drinks that we had brought with us. Mission accomplished :)

July 2017
April 2017
For our evening entertainment, we attended Sarah MacDougall’s concert, which was part of the Northern Passages music festival at Harbourfront. Once again, I’m blown away by the vocals, the drums, and the musicians who can play various instruments. Sarah MacDougall is a Swedish Canadian singer/ songwriter currently living in Yukon. Her personal story about moving from Sweden to Canada, and especially in the Yukon, sounds interesting. She sang her last song at the concert in Swedish. You can read more about her here.

Sarah MacDougall & band

On Sunday, I took my Spanish lessons, then ran a little bit more than 5K in the morning before we left home for our extended family BBQ in the afternoon. This BBQ was to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday with my visiting relatives from the USA and Europe, and my niece’s high school graduation. It was held in the suburb, about 40 km (25 miles) from our home so we took public transit to get there. A joyous time shared among twenty five of us. Everyone was busy chatting, catching up, preparing the food and drinks, joking, laughing, eating, drinking and picture taking. It was a memorable time that I’m sure we’ll remember and fondly recall next time we meet. Bonus: I've completed item 4 on my Summer fun list.

Fun plans for this upcoming week:
  • Daily exercise for up to an hour
  • Continue learning Spanish 15 minutes daily
  • Visit a local park, weather permitting
  • Explore two new-to-me outdoor farmers’ markets
  • Attend up to three concerts
  • Take my relatives sightseeing
  • Connect with my friends to plan a get-together
I hope you had a nice weekend. Make it a good week wherever you are!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Summer fun list progress report #1

Greetings! Back on June 21, I wrote a Summer fun list of 20 items to complete. Today I’m providing the first progress report and linking up with a group of fabulous bloggers to share summer list updates. Some of the bloggers live in Australia so it is winter for them. I’ve been referring to my list on and off in the last four weeks while having a lot of fun working through the items. Let’s see how I’m doing on my Summer Fun List of 20.

Progress report #1 for My Summer Fun List of 20:

1. Take a trip to Costa Rica. Oh Yes! I was interested in Costa Rica's natural beauty and biodiversity, and we got plenty of both on this wonderful trip. Check out my ten pictures from Costa Rica for a sample of what we experienced.

2. Enjoy Costa Rica’s “pura vida”. Yes as written here and here. The pools, the food, the friendly hotel staff, the warm sunshine, and lush green scenery made me feel I was on vacation. The power shortage on July 1 fortunately was over in two hours. The afternoon downpours happened in the last three days of our trip. I think we left just in time before the rainy season was in full force.

3. Do wildlife spotting in Costa Rica. Yes! I saw lots of birds, butterflies, a coati, and many more animals. My favourite on this trip was the toucan (on last trip was the howler monkey).

4. Celebrate Canada’s 150 with a BBQ with our extended family. Pending. We celebrated Canada Day on July 1st while in Costa Rica. We have another celebration this weekend to include relatives who are visiting us from Europe and Southern California.

5. Attend at least one music festival at home. Yes! I’m happy that I already attended four music festivals in Toronto in the last four weeks: the Luminato festival, Franco-Fete de Toronto festival, Oh Susanna concert which was part of the Indulge Your Senses music festival, and The Sadies concert which was part of the Shield to Shore festival. More to come before summer is over.

6. Chill out with my friends with an iced drink, or ice cream in hand. Yes, we had papaya juice with ice in Costa Rica. It was so good! We also had iced coffee drinks, and ice cream a few times in Toronto.

7. Stroll or picnic in a park. Yes at HTO Park as posted here. I hope to visit a few more parks before the end of the summer.

8. Go to Spain and explore. Pending. I feel excited thinking about it.

9. Travel by train in Spain. Pending. I booked our train tickets from Madrid to Cordoba, from Cordoba to San Roque-La Linea, and from San Roque-La Linea to Seville.

10. Visit up to four UNESCO World Heritage sites while in Spain. Pending.

11. Take a siesta to beat the heat. Pending. I’m sure I’ll do this when I’m in Spain in August.

12. Savour Spanish paellas and tapas. Pending.
13. Watch a flamenco show. Pending.
14. Speak basic Spanish while in Costa Rica and Spain. Yes, 50% done! I spoke basic Spanish while in Costa Rica. I was pleased that the locals understood me LOL. I’ll continue learning Spanish and use it when I go to Spain in August.

15. Cross Spain-Gibraltar border twice. Pending. 

16. Tour the Rock of Gibraltar. Pending.

17. See the Barbary macaques (monkeys). Pending.

18. Play with sand and seashells at a beach. Yes, 50% done! I played with sand at the local HTO beach and Sugar beach. No seashells there though so I may have to wait until we get to Gibraltar to play with seashells.

Sugar beach

19. Look for dolphins in the the Bay or the Strait of Gibraltar. Pending.

20. Stay fit by exercising up to one hour daily. Yes and ongoing. To date, I’ve been going to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, practicing yoga on Tuesdays, Thursdays, swimming on Saturdays, and running 5K on Sundays. When I was in Costa Rica, I used the treadmill in the hotel gym, a resistance band, and my body weight for my strength exercises.

More summer goodness: We took a boat cruise in Toronto Harbour at the end of June. I made visits to Thursday farmers' market, Harbourfront Summer Art Exhibitions, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, and the Waterfront Artisan Market as written here, here, and here. I enjoyed them all!

My count indicates that so far I have six of my 20 items completed, three more in progress, and eleven still pending. I’m looking forward to going on our trip to Spain and Gibraltar to check off several fun items on my list. I’ll be posting my next progress report on August 21 so stay tuned.

Be sure to check out the linked-up blogs below for more seasonal fun and inspiration. Happy summer!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Weekend fun

Oh what a fun weekend it was! Aside from my exercise routine, some house chores, and grocery shopping for the week, we explored a few outdoor events that were free to the public.

On Friday, we checked out the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square. It’s Canada’s largest and longest running outdoor art fair, in its 56th year, with over 340 artists this year. If you’re looking for art work for your home, or a unique gift, you’ll find something beautiful here. The artists are on site with their art work displayed in the white tents so you can chat with them. It was a WOW for me to see so much artistic talent in one location. When we left the fair, I felt energized by what I saw. The first picture below shows the fair with Toronto's Old City Hall in the background. The second picture shows Toronto's "New" City Hall in the background.

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2017

On Saturday, the weather was perfect. We packed our picnic basket and went to HTO Park which has grassy hills and a sand beach along Toronto Harbour water’s edge. The willow trees around the park provided lovely shades and the breeze from the lakefront made it quite pleasant. The lake view never gets old. The yellow umbrellas and Muskoka chairs are visually attractive. There were sailboats, kayakers in the harbour, and people sunning on the beach.

I was so relaxed at the park, I thought I was going to fall asleep. We got up to check out the nearby Waterfront Artisan Market. It was busy with shoppers. I spotted a few interesting food and drink offerings.

On Sunday, we attended a concert by the Sadies band, as part of the Shield to Shore music festival. This is a rock and roll, western country music band, formed in 1994 in Toronto. You can read more about them here. The band put on a passionate performance and the audience showed appreciation with long rounds of applause after each song. When the audience lingered after the concert was supposed to be over, the band returned to the stage to play a few more songs.

The Sadies, Shield to Shore festival
As we left, I looked out to the lake and saw a sailboat floating by with a swan and ducks in the water. Did I say the lake view never gets old? Such a lovely image to close out my weekend.

Swan, duck and sailboat
I hope you had a nice weekend, too. I’d love to hear about it! Have a great week!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Cool Thursday

It's a cool, cloudy day today with isolated showers and high only 17C (or 63F). I decided to walk to the farmers' market and attend a music performance by Oh Susanna.

On my walk, I saw some colourful flowers that made me smile and stop to take pictures.

The fresh produce at the farmers' market looked so good, too. They gave me simple ideas for a healthy dinner! Grilled vegetables and chicken would work, right?

Tomatoes and zucchinis
The rain stopped in time for Oh Susanna's performance. She has a strong voice and plays her guitar so well. I admire people who can do song writing, singing, performing, and playing different musical instruments. She has her own web site so you can read more about her and her awards here, or on Wikipedia. It was a pleasure to listen to some of the songs on her newly released album "A Girl in Teen City".

Oh Susanna performing

The weather forecast looks like we'll be back to warmer temperatures tomorrow. I've lined up some fun activities for this weekend:
    •    Check out the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (in its 56th year)
    •    Visit the Waterfront Artisan Market
    •    Picnic at HTO Park which has grassy hills and a sand beach
    •    Attend the Shield to Shore music festival

How about you? What's your plan for fun this weekend?

Monday, 10 July 2017

10 pictures from Costa Rica

We arrived home safely on Saturday evening. Canada Immigration has a new procedure that let us use a kiosk to scan our passports, and with only carry-on suitcases, we breezed out of the airport within fifteen minutes after landing. Nice!

Yesterday morning I ran 5K, showered, had breakfast, and took my Spanish lessons while sipping my coffee. In the afternoon, I unpacked, did laundry, dusted, swept floors, grocery shopped, and checked snail mail, email, and voice mail (phew!). It feels good to be home and I’m almost all caught up.

Today I sorted my pictures from our trip to Costa Rica, and am posting a selection of ten pictures. Why ten? Oh it’s the 10th of July so 10 on 10 sounds good. Plus I do not want to bore anyone with my vacation pictures :)

Pink orchids
Local plant
Local plant
Local plant
Butterfly on ivy leaves
Local bird
Hello Toucan!
Pools and jacuzzis in our hotel
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’m posting ten thousand words here LOL. Hope you enjoy them all. Have a great week!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

June in a sentence a day

Greetings! I started writing my first Sentence A Day reviews in April and also in May. I had fun doing the reviews so today I‘m sharing with you my review of June, and am linking up with several fabulous bloggers who also write their months in a sentence a day. My shout out to Leslie at Once Upon A Time & Happily Ever After for organizing the link-up.

Looking back, June has been a very good month for me. My daily Spanish lessons continue to tease my brain. My exercise routine keeps me feeling fit and upbeat. My family and friends are doing well. The pleasant weather has been conducive for more fun outdoor activities like visiting farmers’ markets, attending music concerts, meeting up with friends, etc. To wrap the month of June with a trip to Costa Rica is simply fantastic. So here are my sentences...

June in a sentence a day

1. Welcomed June with a visit to the outdoor farmers’ market and attended a live concert by the talented Angela Saini and her two friends.

Strawberries at farmers' market
Angela Saini & friends

2. Exercised at the gym, took Spanish lessons, and spent some time on travel planning.
3. Swam 50 laps, booked our trip to Spain and Gibraltar, and did grocery shopping.
4. Ran 5K, stretched, and took it easy for the rest of the day.
5. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, made phone calls regarding our stay in Gibraltar in August, had al fresco dining on the terrace, and savoured a red velvet cake.

6. Practiced yoga, continued to learn Spanish, and read more about Spain.
7. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, did house work, and made a family dinner that everyone enjoyed.
8. Practiced yoga, met a friend for coffee, and enjoyed Beauty and the Beast movie and popcorn with our neighbours.
9. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, attended appointments, and had a nice pizza lunch date.
10. Felt great after swimming 52 laps, completing grocery runs, and getting a haircut.
11. Ran 5K in the morning, stretched, and relaxed in the afternoon before making dinner with rapini.
12. Exercised in the gym then went to a business appointment on the 35th floor which had a good view of downtown Toronto.

13. Practiced yoga, and took walks to enjoy the sunshine, greenery, and flowers in my neighbourhood.
14. Exercised in the gym in the morning, and attended a school musical with our friends in the evening.
15. Practiced yoga, reflected on my first half of June, and felt grateful for all of the abundance I have.

Fragrant flowers seen on my walk
16. Made Friday fun by asking a friend to join me at the gym, then continued with my Spanish lessons, and chatted with my sister on the phone.
17. Swam 54 laps, completed grocery runs, and had a picnic with my family.
18. Ran 5K, then relaxed at home to write up my Spring list wrap up post.
19. Worked out in the gym, went to the Luminato festival, treated my eyes with the colourful Famous Spiegeltent, and my ears with the Guaracha Y Sol live concert.

The Famous Spiegeltent

20. Practiced yoga, did house work, and savoured the sweet watermelon of the season, yum!

Sweet watermelon

21. Had a wonderful Wednesday after exercising in the gym, revealing my Summer fun list, and reading other bloggers’ summer lists.
22. Practiced yoga, went to the Luminato festival again, this time to shop at the farmers’ market, and to attend Nick Sherman’s concert.
23. Enjoyed this rainy Friday indoor with one hour at the gym, and lunch with two girlfriends.
24. Swam 54 laps, shopped groceries, did laundry, and started organizing documents for our trip to Costa Rica.
25. Ran 5K, attended two concerts at the Franco-Fete de Toronto festival, viewed Summer Art Exhibitions at Harbourfront Centre, then went home to start packing for our trip.

26. Exercised in the gym then spent more time at our local supermarket than normal due to the reorganizing of shelves while the aisle labels are not updated yet.
27. Took Spanish lessons, went for a 30-minute walk to enjoy the sunshine, and continued getting ready for our trip.
28. Exercised in the  gym, checked into our flight online, finished packing for our trip, and boarded a boat cruise around Toronto Island & Harbour for dinner, music and dancing.

29. Got up bright and early for our flight to Costa Rica!
30. Relaxed in our hotel in San Jose, reflected on the first half of 2017, and feel happy and grateful for all that I have.

Make July a great month, wherever you are! Be sure to visit the linked up blogs for more fun June reviews.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Power outage and a downpour

Two days ago there was a power outage in San Jose, Costa Rica. It started around 1:30 p.m. and ended around 3:30 p.m. We were at our hotel with several Canadian friends to celebrate Canada Day. One of the Canadian expats told us that power outage is not unusual in San Jose, and it's also part of the "Pura vida" in Costa Rica. Everyone was calm and waited around until the power came back. To me it was a reminder that we can't take all the modern conveniences for granted, and should always have a back up plan.

This afternoon we had a big downpour, the first since we arrived 4-5 days ago. It was the kind of rain that you can see the water bubbles hitting the ground, and hear the sound of rain drops on the roof. Very soothing when we are inside, looking out. The trees seem to happily soak up all the water that came down from the sky. The heavy rain lasted about half an hour then it was all clear again.

Our vacation has been great! I've seen different types of colourful birds and flowers. I've been savouring the local fruits like mangoes, papayas, watermelons, pineapples... all ripe, juicy, and sweet. Also have had local dishes such as gallo pinto (rice and black beans), beef stew, fish, chicken stew, fried plantains, etc., and of course Costa Rican coffee. I've been speaking basic Spanish to local merchants and hotel employees. Glad to have the opportunity to practice what I've learned online.

Happy 4th of July to my American relatives and friends tomorrow!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Pura vida in Costa Rica

We arrived safe and sound in San Jose, Costa Rica yesterday. Our hotel room is spacious and comfy. Good wifi throughout the hotel. Nice weather so far, sun and clouds during the day, high 25C or 77F, with low humidity but high UV index, and cooler temperature at night makes it great for sleeping.

Food and drinks have been very good. I got my exercise hour in the gym today. Will be pleased if I come home without new weight gain! Also lots of relaxing time by the three available pools, one of them has a waterfall. Soaking in the sunshine, listening to the sounds of water, watching the birds, letting my mind wander, admiring the local flora and landscaping in our hotel grounds, sipping Costa Rican coffee in the morning, savouring the fresh fruit here...Pura vida!

What else? I've been eyeing a few mango trees outside our windows, all laden with hundreds of mangoes. I've also been speaking Spanish to the hotel employees as much as I can. I felt confident with the basic conversations so my online learning is paying off. Last night I helped out a tourist to get two more plates of food for his family, in Spanish, as the tourist spoke English only, and the waiter spoke Spanish only.

Oh and this is my first blog post from outside of Canada! Special time for me to take note. Will post pictures at a later date.

Make it a great week, wherever you are!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Franco-Fete, Arts, and Packing for Costa Rica

It's been non-stop actions in the last five days as we're getting ready for our trip to Costa Rica.

On Saturday, I swam 54 laps in the morning, took my Spanish lessons, did grocery shopping, and notified my credit card companies of my upcoming trip.

On Sunday, I ran 5K in the morning, took my Spanish lessons, then did laundry, before going to the Franco-fete de Toronto music festival. The weather was great on Saturday but wacky on Sunday, alternating from sun, to rain, lightning, thunderstorms, then back to sunshine. I attended two concerts at the festival, and in between the two shows, went to view the Summer Arts exhibitions at Harbourfront Centre. There were many interesting vignettes to see and the exhibitions are on until September so I may return for a second look.

On the first three days of this week, I did my Spanish lessons, workouts in the gym, yoga, and stretched in the morning, then started packing and buying a few items that we need for the trip. I went through my travel checklist to ensure we have the essential documents, small amount of cash, some snacks, first aid kit, electronic devices, converters, chargers, clothing, and toiletries. For our home, I double checked to ensure all bills are paid, use up perishable items in the fridge, water my house plants, take out garbage, do light cleaning, and have someone pick up our mail during our vacation.

This morning I checked in online for our flight to San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. I booked this trip back in March and it is finally here! Tonight we're going on a boat cruise around the Toronto Island and Harbour for a graduation dinner party.

We’ll be up early tomorrow morning to get to the airport on time for our flight. This will be our second visit to Costa Rica but first time to San Jose. We’re excited, and look forward to having an awesome trip like we did in Playa Grande.

As usual, we pack light, one carry-on suitcase and a small day pack each. The weather forecast for San Jose shows daytime high temperature around 25 Celsius (or 77F), mix of sunny, cloudy, rainy days, and isolated thunderstorms, similar to what we’ve been having in Toronto. Our flight will be about five hours long with Toronto time two hours ahead of San Jose time. I'll have plenty of time during our flight to reflect on the first half of 2017 and what's new for the second half of 2017.

On this trip, we plan to explore San Jose and its surroundings at an easy pace. I look forward to light hiking, bird watching, wildlife spotting, and relaxing by the pool. I’m also keen to enjoy Costa Rican coffee every morning and have my fill of tropical fruits. If we end up not doing much, I'll be fine with just being as well :)

We’ll return home on July 8th evening. If I have good Internet service during the trip, then I may do a quick post. Otherwise, I’m scheduling my June in a sentence-a-day post to go live on July 6th.  Please check back next Thursday for my June review and link-up with other fabulous bloggers who also write their months in a sentence a day.

Make it a great week, wherever you are!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Luminato festival

One of the twenty items on my Summer fun list is to attend at least one music festival at home. Toronto is flush with festivals in the summer. Many of them are free to the public.

So not to miss one minute of summer fun, this week I attended the Luminato festival which is an international, multi-arts event at venues across the city, from June 14 to June 25. It worked out perfectly in that one of the venues, David Pecaut Square, is within walking distance from my place. I got some exercise by walking to the square, fresh air from sitting outdoors at a picnic table for lunch, and wonderful one-hour musical treats for my ears.

I saw the Famous Spiegeltent set up for the evening shows. I googled to learn a bit about the history of the tent and its construction. I didn’t know that only a handful of these unique “tents of mirrors” are left in the world today, and that the Famous Spiegeltent has travelled from Melbourne to Montreal, Brighton, and now Toronto.

The Famous Spiegeltent

I was able to attend two free outdoor programs: Guaracha Y Son, an all-Cuban quartet on Monday, and Nick Sherman, a singer-songwriter from Sioux Lookout in Northern Ontario on Thursday. Both performances were wonderful. There were spicy food trucks on Monday, and a weekly farmers’ market on Thursday in the same public square so more to explore and enjoy.

Guaracha Y Son quartet, Luminato 2017
Nick Sherman at Luminato 2017
This weekend I plan to:
  • Exercise in the gym on Friday morning
  • Meet two friends for lunch
  • Swim 50-55 laps on Saturday
  • Attend the Franco-Fete de Toronto (French music festival)
  • Check out the Visual Arts Exhibitions Summer 2017
  • Grocery shopping
  • Run or walk 5K on Sunday
  • Start packing for our trip to Costa Rica
Make it a great weekend, wherever you are!