Wednesday, 24 May 2017

My 3rd week of May


The third week of May just zoomed right by for me. We had Victoria Day long weekend, May 20 to 22, full of activities. More social outings are also happening now that we start having nicer weather.

Happy I’ve accomplished the following this past week:

Fitness:
  • Continued to learn Spanish, 15 minutes a day.
  • Exercised at the gym 3x, did yoga 2x.
  • Swam 50 laps on Saturday. In the last ten minutes of my swim, I had the pool by myself and decided to keep going until lap 50. Swimming in calm water is so enjoyable!

Family:
  • Kept up with my family routine.
  • For our Victoria Day long weekend, I savoured time at home with my family. We also went out for a 45-minute walk and dinner with friends at a casual, all-you-can-eat place. On the menu were two choices of soup, salads, garlic bread, spaghetti bolognese, penne with grilled vegetables, cookies, ice cream, and soft drinks. Cost was CAD$10 for youths and CAD$15 for adults, taxes included - quite reasonable and good food, too.

Friends:
  • Met up with a friend for cappuccino and visual arts at Harbourfront. We had a nice time chatting and strolling along the lake front.
  • Reconnected via email with a former classmate who now lives in Germany. Happy messaging!

Fun:

Finance:
  • Experienced a delay in the carpet installation for my condo refresh project. I had hoped to get the new carpet in on May 17 or 18 but no such thing. The work is now scheduled for May 30.

Plans for the last week of May:
  • Keep up with daily family and fitness activities.
  • Get new carpet installed in the condo.
  • Explore a local art or entertainment event.
  • Search and compare air fares to Europe.

I hope you had a good 3rd week of May. How did it go for you?

Monday, 22 May 2017

Ten home organization tips


Greetings! With a condo refresh project going on, and a family home to manage, I use the following ten tips to help me in my quest to stay organized:
  1. Designate a place for everything that’s worth keeping, and get rid of clutter that may claim a place as soon as possible. The risk of not getting rid of the clutter right away is it will become part of our home and will accumulate over time.
  2. Return things to their “home” location after each use. This habit keeps things in their designated spots and makes it easy for me to retrieve them when I need them.
  3. Make it convenient for my family to stay organized. For example, I have a basket in the hallway for quick pick-ups and drop offs of keys, hats, gloves, sunglasses, etc.
  4. Label clearly. I label whether it’s a file, a bin, or a box so I know what’s in it at a quick glance. On some of my storage boxes, I even tape a picture of the contents at the front of the boxes.
  5. Use a calendar or a planner. I use my electronic calendar and colour codes extensively so I can keep track of my daily activities.
  6. Create a list or check list. I usually use a list when I go grocery shopping. For repetitive activities such as travel, I create a travel checklist and use it every time I’m getting ready for a trip. I may modify it based on the destination, local weather forecast, and the trip duration but the essentials are pretty much the same.
  7. Group relevant or similar things together. I keep a folder for each travel itinerary including air tickets, accommodation, transportation info together. In my closet, I keep pants in one section, skirts in another, etc. By doing this I can see what I already have and find it easier to choose what I want to wear. I also organize clothing and bedding by season and keep what’s in season accessible. I live in Toronto where we have distinct seasons so at least twice a year, if not quarterly, we have to change from light clothing and bedding to heavier covers.
  8. Follow “one in one out” rule as closely as possible. I am not always successful at following this rule but it is on my mind whenever I think about bringing home new things.
  9. Declutter quarterly or at least twice a year so the clutter does not become overwhelming.
  10. Buy more “experience” and less “things” to have less physical things to maintain.
We can all learn from each other. Leslie from Once Upon A Time & Happily Ever After has five grocery shopping tips here. Please share what organizational tips have worked for you.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Piano and violin recital


I was looking up music events and found St. Andrew’s church in downtown Toronto has a Friday Noontime Recital today. I passed by this church many times but have not been inside. So it’s time to go and explore.

I learned that St. Andrew’s was founded in 1830, and the current building was opened for worship in 1876. The church interior is very nice with dark wood beams, stained glass windows, and art work on the ceiling.
St. Andrew's church, Toronto
St. Andrew's church, Toronto
There were plenty of seats available for the recital. The volunteers handed out the program sheet as people arrived. After a brief introduction by the music director, the recital began.

Melody Chan (piano) and Katie Ho (violin) performed Violin Sonata no.9, Op. 47, Beethoven beautifully for close to an hour. The audience was quiet listening the entire time, including a young child who was chatty before the recital started. We all eagerly applauded at the end of the recital.

Pianist and violinist
The program was free although voluntary donations toward an honorarium for the performers were accepted.

I enjoyed and appreciated such outstanding musical performance by the two talented artists in a beautiful space.

Have a great weekend wherever you are!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cappuccino and visual arts

I just shared some nice time with a dear friend.

First, we met up at Boxcar Social (Harbourfront location) and enjoyed a cup of cappuccino each. I could see how this coffee shop and bar would fill up quickly in the evening or weekends. Plenty of indoor and outdoor seats. The outdoor patio faces the lake, and the interior is kind of cool.

I "heart" cappuccino
Boxcar Social Harbourfront
Next, we browsed the free visual art exhibitions at the Harbourfront Centre. Very different exhibitions but were all interesting. I took some pictures to share with you here.

Tong Yan Gaai (Chinatown) by Morris Lum
Yukon Sketchbooks by Joanne Ratajczak
Wind-up Lamp by Oscar Kwong
Last, we walked along the boardwalk and soaked in the lake view. The water level was still high due to the heavy rainfall this month but it was calm, sunny, and just right for our walk.

I love it that Toronto has so many coffee shops and art galleries for me to explore, with a friend, or alone.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

My 2nd week of May

The condo refresh project took a chunk of my time this past week. When I started going through my calendar, I felt better that I actually accomplished my other personal goals as well. 

Happy that I’ve accomplished the following this past week:

Fitness:
- Continued to learn Spanish, 15 minutes a day.
- Exercised at the gym 3x, did yoga 2x. I changed up my gym routine this past week by asking a positive-minded friend to join me in one workout session. It’s amazing how long a small dose of humour can last. I’m still smiling when I think about our fun chitchats. I’d encourage you to ask a positive friend to join you in your exercise routine now and then.
- Swam 42 laps on Saturday, and ran 5K on Sunday. 👍👍

Family:
- Kept up with my family routine.
- Enjoyed a BBQ for my mother with extended family on Sunday - Happy Mother’s day. 

Friends:
- Emailed my friends who live in the USA to touch base. Glad to hear they are well.
- Shared positive energy and laughed with my friend who joined me at the gym. 

Fun:
- Made a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Wednesday evening. It was nice to view art at leisure. I’ll be back to explore different sections in the AGO.
- Tried another easy recipe Sausage and Asparagus Bowl, as the ingredients were on sale at my grocery store. I used shallots, and sweet chili sauce which I had on hand, in lieu of onions and jalapeno. My family ate everything on their plates, and agreed they would have it again - Success!

Finance/ Condo refresh project:
- Plumbing: Hired a plumber to change the parts in the toilet tank to fix the toilet leak. It was the first time I called in a plumber for the condo unit. He completed his work and prepared the electronic invoice on his tablet within 90 minutes. I was pleased to see the total cost for parts and labour was reasonable.
- Do-It-Myself: The plumber diagnosed the weak water flow in the shower stall was caused by debris caught in the shower head. He suggested that since I had successfully changed the shower head in the bath tub, I should change the shower head in the shower stall to solve the problem and save money from paying him to do it. So off I went to the local Home Depot. Yep, I bought another Moen handheld shower head that was easy to install. This one has 3 settings with chrome finish. You may not be excited but I was when I finished installing and both shower heads now work beautifully!

Moen handheld 7-settings shower head

Moen handheld 3-settings shower head
- Painting: Hired a painter to paint the entire condo, including removal of the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, and the fixed desk in the den. It took him three days to complete the job. The condo looks fresh and cohesive with neutral grey/ white palette. Benjamin Moore paint codes used: Gray Owl (OC-52) for the walls, Storm Grey (AF-700) for the bottom cupboard doors, and Decorator’s White (CC-20) for the upper cupboard doors, trim, and doors.
- Carpeting: Received two quotes and carpet samples.  One of the quotes was from Home Depot. Decision to be made early next week. I was impressed that the Home Depot worker who came to the condo took measurements of the carpeted areas with a laser tool, and keyed in all details in his tablet. I was able to view the plan and estimates on his tablet right away.

Plans for this upcoming week:
- Keep up with daily family and fitness activities.
- Book contractor to install new carpet in the condo.
- Attend a free or low cost art and entertainment event. Finding one is part of the fun!
- Have dinner with friends on Saturday.

I hope you had a good 2nd week of May. Your turn to tell me about your week!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

A visit to the AGO

Yesterday, after dinner, we walked to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to admire some art collections. Admissions are free from 6 to 9 PM on Wednesdays, and we live within walking distance from the AGO so it is a nice evening activity to do from time to time.

The AGO currently has the Georgia O’Keeffe special exhibition on until July. It certainly draws a crowd. No photography allowed in the gallery with the O’Keeffe exhibition but no worries as the AGO has set up a wall with the well-known Jimson Weed image for visitors to take pictures.


We decided to skip the crowd, and went to see the Henry Moore sculptures and the African Art collection. Both galleries were nicely organized, and more relaxing to enjoy. I took a couple of pictures to share with you here.

Draped Seated Woman by Henry Moore
A chair in the African Art gallery
I took the next picture with the upcoming Mother’s Day in mind.

Mother and Child Bowl by Yoruba artist
Quote from Moudu Ekhar, Contemporary African Artist: “In Yoruba culture, children are considered the biggest blessing. You may not be rich, but children are your main asset.

I feel fortunate to be able to easily visit the AGO for free, and take in some wonderful art work. Happy Mother's Day on Sunday!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

My 1st week of May


We had a lot of rain this past week, especially on Thursday and Friday. Lake Ontario has risen nearly 25 centimetres (or close to 10 inches) since May 1. It was still lovely in that my sister visited us for a week. She just left yesterday morning. Due to the heavy downpour, we spent more time indoors than outdoors.
Lake Ontario high water level
Happy that I’ve accomplished the following this past week:

Fitness:
  • Continued with Spanish lessons, 15 minutes a day.
  • Exercised at the gym 3x, did yoga 2x.
  • Swam 40 laps on Saturday, and ran 5K on Sunday.
Finance/ Condo refresh project:
  • Finished cleaning all rooms and the five appliances in the condo.
  • Met and received quotes from two different contractors.
  • Chose new carpet and paint colours (greys and whites).
  • Replaced the shower head in the bath tub with a new Moen handheld shower head. It has seven settings, grey/ chrome finish, and was very easy to install. It was on sale for 20% off regular price.
  • Added two light bulbs that were missing in the bathroom. The new LED light bulbs were frugal wins in that they were on a special sale for $1.94 each, or 65% off regular price.
Family:
  • Had lunch and dinner with my sis and our parents on Sunday.
  • Took my sister out for coffee and indoor shopping twice.
  • Kept up with my own family’s routine and chores.
Fun:
  • Posted my first April in a sentence a day and read other participants’ blogs.
  • Window-shopped with my sister. We went to two different shopping malls that I haven’t been to for a while so they were kind of new to me, too. I think we were doing more talking than shopping!
  • Tried Sheila’s easy chicken sausage skillet recipe. I served the chicken sausage and kale with a small amount of steamed rice, and got thumbs up from my family (thanks, Sheila).
Plans for the upcoming week:
  • Keep up with daily family and fitness activities.
  • Touch base with my friends who live in the USA.
  • Book contractors for my condo refresh project.
  • Visit the Art Gallery of Ontario.
I hope you had a good first week of May. Tell me about your week!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

April in a sentence a day


Thanks to Leslie at Once Upon A Time & Happily Ever After and Tamara at My Retirement Project for introducing me to “sentence a day” month in review.

Here’s a recap of my April in a sentence a day:
  1. Welcomed April with Spanish lessons, gym, grocery shopping, and free viewing of contemporary art exhibits at the Power Plant.
  2. It was a beautiful Sunday, perfect for walking 6.5 km (4 miles) and reflecting on the month of March.
  3. A combo of learning Spanish, exercising in the gym, getting some house chores done, and cooking a tasty dinner that my family loved, made a good Monday in my book.
  4. Practiced yoga and stretched...Namaste!
  5. Wished a dear friend a happy birthday and laughed together.
  6. Kept the day simple with yoga and light work.
  7. Enjoyed a fun Friday with Spanish lessons, gym, a blog post on Lisbon & Sintra, and a cappuccino at Dineen Coffee with my best friend.
  8. Resumed indoor swimming after the winter break, starting with thirty laps.
  9. It was a productive Sunday with a 5.6 km walk (3.5 miles), a blog post, and close-to-done packing for my parents’ move.
  10. "Rinse and repeat April 3rd" meant another good Monday.
  11. Read and day dreamed about visiting Gibraltar, Spain, Budapest, and Prague.
  12. It was hump day with Spanish lessons, gym, house chores, and packing last minute items at my parents’ place.
  13. Moved and unpacked quite a few of these bins for my parents. 
  14. It was a fine Friday after the move.
  15. I could swim thirty four laps this morning, yay!
  16. Felt fit and creative after running 5 km, publishing a blog post, and making a good family meal.
  17. It was my kind of Monday when I made progress in Spanish, exercised, and finished booking for our Costa Rica trip.
  18. Felt stunned and sad to know a neighbour died of a heart attack at the age of 57.
  19. Completed my income tax return, and double checked.
  20. Started thinking more about my condo refresh project in May.
  21. Packing was light and easy for my family weekend getaway.
  22. Thirty six laps in the pool made a great Saturday morning!
  23. Enjoyed my family weekend getaway very much, with fabulous weather, and Chinese food for dinner on Sunday.
  24. Felt pleased to add a few check marks on my Spring activity list.
  25. Learning a new language and doing gentle yoga are fun.
  26. Blogging and connecting with other bloggers are also fun.
  27. My Spring list update reflected my personal goals for the year in the categories of Fitness, Finance, Family, Friends, and Fun.
  28. Viewed Valerie Blass’ “Nous ne sommes pas des heros” exhibit and enjoyed jazz for free at Brookfield Place.
    "We are not heroes" by Valerie Blass
  29. My sister gave me these two cute zippered pouches. 
  30. Jumped start the day with a brisk 5K walk in 5C (41F) weather plus windchill, then wrapped up the rest of April with my sister, family and warm hugs.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Condo refresh project

I have a rental condo in downtown Toronto that will be vacant in May. It is a one bedroom plus den unit that can house two people comfortably. I’m planning to refresh it with new flooring, new paint, and some minor repairs.

The condo building is about twelve years old. The hallway carpet, walls, lighting, and door handles in the common areas of the building were just refreshed last year.

My condo unit has hardwood floor in the living room, carpet in the bedroom and den, and tile floors in the kitchen and bathroom. The carpet is due to be replaced. A new coat of paint will freshen up the rooms.

I attached two pictures that I took before renting out my condo unit several years ago. One is the open concept kitchen and the other is the living and dining rooms, just to give you an idea. The living room walks out to a balcony with a view of lake Ontario and the islands.

Kitchen
Living and Dining rooms
Preliminary thoughts and potential work:
  • paint the whole unit, about 825 square feet.
  • paint all kitchen cupboard doors and drawers.
  • paint two bathroom cupboard doors below the sink.
  • put in new carpet for bedroom and den, or replace all existing flooring with new hardwood floor.
  • remove the fixed desk in the den area for more flexibility with furnishings.
  • remove the small medicine cabinet in the bathroom for a more spacious look.
  • change the shower head in the bath tub to a nicer handheld shower head.
  • change the curtain for the window in the bedroom to blinds.
Since the hardwood floor in the living room is still in good condition, I think I’ll keep it and just put in new carpet in the bedroom and the den. The condo has strict rules and regulations for hardwood flooring for noise control reasons, and hardwood floor would likely cost more than new carpet. I’d like to keep costs down where possible, without compromising the overall results. For paint colours, I think I’ll go for a neutral colour palette of greys and whites to appeal to potential renters or buyers.

Now onward to find a contractor for the project, and to shop around for paint, carpet, blinds, and shower heads! My sister knew a contractor who had finished her basement and she was satisfied with his work so I’ll start with him. I have a feeling May is going to be a busy month LOL.

If this was your investment/ rental condo, would you replace all existing flooring with new hardwood floor? What colour would you choose for the new hardwood floor, and the paint colour palette for the condo? Would your choices be different if you were to sell the unit, as opposed to rent it out?

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!