Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Wellness Post #3: Ice Breakers 2019


Welcome to the third Wellness link up of 2019! You might like to read my January wellness post here, and February wellness post here. Feel free to join in on the fun with your recent or past wellness-related posts every second Wednesday of the month.

HEALTH GOAL UPDATES

I was at home the month of February which made it easier than when I travel to achieve my health goals. I use a simple sheet to keep track of all my goals for 2019, and write a monthly wrap up on my blog. My February wrap-up, including my Health activities, is posted here.

ICE BREAKERS for OUTDOOR FITNESS

For this month's Wellness post, the optional prompt is Indoor or Outdoor Fitness. I live in Ontario, Canada. In the winter months, the weather is unpredictable so it's necessary to do fitness activities both indoor and outdoor to stay healthy throughout the year.

Today, I'm sharing my 'fit and fun' outing to the Ice Breakers 2019 event in Toronto's Waterfront area. This is an annual outdoor event that showcases five winners of the Ice Breakers International Design Competition. Let's take a closer look at the five installations.

ICE BREAKERS 2019 - THE FIVE WINNERS

1. Tweeta-Gate by Eleni Papadimitriou and Stefanos Ziras of Space Oddity Studios SOS (Athens, Greece) - I like the yellow colour, the different shapes of the gates, and the small bells attached to the corners of each gate in this design. When you reach the end of the gate, you can see Lake Ontario.

Tweeta-Gate. Ice Breakers 2019

2. Chroma Key Protest by Andrew Edmundson of Solve Architects Inc. (Toronto, Canada) - I like the green colour and the simplicity of this design. The twenty-five wood buoys are anchored in a basin so I can look at them from the bridge but cannot touch them.

Chroma Key Protest, Ice Breakers 2019

3. Stellar Spectra by Rob Shostak and Dionisios Vriniotis (Toronto, Canada) - I like how this art installation invites interaction. When I look at the two light grey columns from the side walk, they are not that interesting. However, when I step inside each column and look up, I see warm colours (red, orange, yellow) in one column, and cool colours (blue, green, purple) in the other.

Stellar Spectra, Ice Breakers 2019

4. Tripix by Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada) - The modern look of this design is interesting. When I examine it closely, the reflective panels and how light gets through the gaps give a kaleidoscopic effect.

Tripix, Ice Breakers 2019

5. Connector by Alexandra Griess and Jorel Heid (Hamburg, Germany) - I like the striking orange colour of this design and how it invites interaction. I've seen children speak into the black mouth pieces at the corners and listen to the sound transmission.

Connector, Ice Breakers 2019

WHAT I GAINED:
  • Raised heart rate from the brisk walk outdoors.
  • An enjoyable walk along the waterfront on a sunny day. 
  • Positive sensory experiences from the visual art exhibits, the clear blue skies, the lake view, the sound of the bells, the touch and feel of most exhibits, the sunlight, and the cold air.

OVERALL RATING: I gave this outing five out of five points, one point for each of the following:
  • Affordability: Admission to the event is free.
  • Elements that support wellness: The art installations are along the Waterfront Trail which is open year round to cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians.
  • Fun: The art exhibits are interesting and interactive.
  • New experience: It was my second visit to the Ice Breakers event so I'm familiar with the event but the exact locations of the art installations changed slightly. I wrote about Ice Breakers 2018 here.
  • Uniqueness: The Ice Breakers event is once a year and each year five new winners are chosen.

I was pleased with how well this winter outing turned out. I left the Ice Breakers art installations feeling energized and joyful. Another fun walk, another good day!

I look forward to doing more fit and fun walks in the Spring. The next Wellness link up will be on Wednesday, April 10. Optional prompt: Healthy Mind.

Which of the above five winners do you like the most? I'd love to hear your comments.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

A Walk to Canoe Landing Park

Two days after a major snowstorm, on the first day of March, we had sunny skies with calm wind and the high temperature near freezing point. It was perfect for my 'fit and fun' walk to Canoe Landing Park.

Canoe Landing Park is an urban park created in 2009 in downtown Toronto. Its total area is 8 acres (3.1 ha). Its location is adjacent to the Gardiner Expressway, a municipal expressway, running close to the shore of Lake Ontario.

What makes Canoe Landing Park visually interesting are the standalone art pieces by Douglas Coupland, the Vancouver artist, author, and sculptor.

Here's a closer look at the art creations:

1. The Red Canoe: The canoe is large enough for people to stand in and see over the Gardiner Expressway to Lake Ontario. It's placed on a hill made from on-site excavated fill and geosynthetic reinforcements. Some 20,000-25,000 dump truck loads of fill were diverted from landfills.

The Red Canoe

2. Iceberg Benches are a pair of benches situated near the canoe. On a clear day, one can sit on the benches and have a panoramic view of Lake Ontario to the south and the high-rise buildings surrounding the park.

Iceberg Benches

3. Fishing Bobbers: A colourful display of twelve large fishing bobbers adds visual interest, especially on the white snowy ground. In the summer, when sprinklers are turned on, this area becomes a fun splash pad. Imagine running around, or in and out of the fishing bobbers with water spraying.

Fishing Bobbers

4. Beaver Dam: It's a sculptural beaver dam situated near the fishing bobbers, not a real one :) Due to the snow, my photo did not show the sticks and branches similar to what beavers use for their dams.

Beaver Dam

5. Terry Fox Miracle Mile: It's a one mile run named after Terry Fox, the Canadian athlete who ran the cross-country Marathon of Hope in April 1980 to raise money for cancer research. His life story and actions are incredibly moving and inspiring.

Map of Terry Fox Miracle Mile

6. Heart-Shaped Stone: This bronze artwork was cast from a stone retrieved by Terry Fox's brother at the end of his journey. Terry Fox was forced to end his run after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi). He died at the young age of 22.

Heart-Shaped Stone

The beautiful sunshine encouraged me to continue my walk from Canoe Landing Park to the lake front. There I saw lots of seagulls, ducks, birds, and a few white swans.

Seagulls on Lake Ontario

Swans in Toronto Harbour

Then it was time to head home. I felt great and relaxed after walking outdoors in the sunshine and observing nature. Another fit and fun walk done, another good day!

I'd love to hear your comments.

Friday, 1 March 2019

February Wrap-Up

Greetings! This is my second monthly wrap-up in 2019. My January wrap-up was posted here. I plan to write a wrap-up for each month so I can look back and see how well the year has turned out.

FEBRUARY 2019

ARTS

In February I viewed two visually interesting outdoor art events titled Icefest 2019 and Ice Breakers 2019, and two wonderful indoor art exhibits titled Same Dream by Omar Ba, and Mapping Worlds by Shuvinai Ashoona.

I wrote about my visit to the Icefest 2019 event here. The Ice Breakers blog draft is in progress. Each of the two indoor art exhibits had about thirty or more beautiful paintings. Taking photos without flash was allowed so I took several photos and might share some of them in another blog post. In the interim, I included two photos below.

Omar Ba is an artist born in Dakar, Senegal. He lives and works between Dakar and Geneva. His works have been shown in Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, and Senegal.

Art by Omar Ba

Shuvinai Ashoona lives in Kinngait (formerly known as Cape Dorset) on the southern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. Her work has been shown in various galleries and museums in Canadian cities.

Art by Shuvinai Ashoona

BLOGS

In February I blogged about my travels to explore some of the main attractions in Guatemala, my fit and fun walk to see Icefest Hollywood North ice sculptures and ice carving demonstrations, one monthly wrap-up for January, and one final update for my Winter Fun List.

BOOKS

I read seven books written by authors from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. I was kind of surprised that I could finish this many books in a short month like February.


  • Scrublands by Chris Hammer, 368 pages.
  • Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini, 48 pages - This book was inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis and the death of Alan Kurdi. The Afghan-American author, Khaled Hosseini, will donate author proceeds from this book to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund lifesaving relief efforts to help refugees around the globe.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, 432 pages - This book was made into a movie starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in 2014. The movie and the actress were nominated for several awards. It must be quite a thriller to watch.
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, 419 pages - I was so pleased to pick up and read this book which won the 2018 Giller Prize in Canada. Last time I checked, there were 1685 holds for 399 copies in the Toronto Public Library system. If you're looking for an award-winning Canadian author, add this book to your reading list.
  • Defending Jacob by William Landay, 421 pages.
  • The Widow by Fiona Barton, 336 pages. 
  • Family & Other Catastrophes by Alexandra Borowitz, 302 pages.

CONCERTS

I attended two piano concerts performed by Rudin Lengo and Jean-Luc Therrien, one guitar concert by Louis Lawlor, and one choir and organ concert by Bach Children's Chorus at Roy Thomson Hall. The live singing and music were simply incredible.

Organ at Roy Thomson Hall

FAMILY and FRIENDS

Sharing delicious food with my family and friends was the theme in February. Each week we had a food event: A potluck dinner with my family clan, followed by a potluck lunch with my yoga class, and a Mexican fiesta dinner on Family Day. There were desserts at each event, too. I also met up with my friends for three coffee and one lunch catch-ups. One of my friends is taking early retirement in March so it's an exciting time for her.

Potluck lunch

HEALTH

Being at home the entire February means I can be consistent with my fitness routine. I got in all my daily meditation time, and walked outdoors for forty-five minutes or more every day, except three Sundays which were my rest days. I also completed thirteen strength workouts in the gym, eight yoga classes, and four swimming sessions.

LEARNING

I continued my French an Spanish lessons on Duolingo, fifteen minutes for each language daily. I also learned about the new artists when I went to see their art exhibits or attend their concerts, and new authors when I read books that are new-to-me. I usually end up researching more about the artist or the author and their works.

MOVIES

I watched four movies in February. As we know by now Bohemian Rhapsody won four Oscars for Best Actor, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing, and Shallow from A Star Is Born won an Oscar in the Original Song category.
  • Johnny English Strikes Again starring Rowan Atkinson
  • Bohemian Rhapsody starring Rami Malek
  • The Front Runner starring Hugh Jackman
  • A Star Is Born starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

TRAVEL PLANNING

My sister and I booked a guided tour to Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia in March.  We're both looking forward to the trip. The weather forecast at our destinations definitely looks more spring-like than what we have at home at the moment.

Overall, February was a fun-filled month for me. I enjoyed time with my family and friends, and the continuity of my health and leisure activities. March is off to a great start with plenty of new things for me to explore and learn.

How was your February? What good things happened? I'd love to hear your comments.


Sunday, 24 February 2019

Postcard from Guatemala City

Greetings! In January I took a trip to Guatemala in Central America. I wrote three blog posts on the first three stops in my itinerary as follows:

Today I'm sharing my tour and photos in Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala and the largest city in Central America. Its official name is Nueva Guatemala de la AsunciĆ³n (New Guatemala of the Assumption). The population of Guatemala City is about two million, however, with the addition of the neighbouring municipalities, the total increases to about four million.

Guatemala City is divided into twenty-two zones, which are numbered in a spiral fashion starting in downtown Guatemala City. I decided to book a half-day city tour to explore the various city zones. The tour included hotel pick-up and drop-off. There were eight people, including me, in the tour group, plus an English-speaking tour guide and a driver. Our shuttle van could accommodate twenty people so we had lots of room in the vehicle.

Our tour began with a visit to Plaza Berlin which offers a good view of Guatemala City and its surrounding mountains. From there, we made a few stops to see Iglesia Yurrita, a Catholic church known for its ornate Gothic features, and the Central Post Office which has the arch way similar to the Santa Catalina arch in Antigua.

View of Guatemala City from Plaza Berlin

Plaza Berlin, Guatemala City

Yurrita Church in Guatemala City

Main Post Office in Guatemala City

We continued on to Central Plaza, also known as Constitution Plaza, at the heart of Guatemala City. Here, we viewed the Cathedral, built between 1782 and 1815, and the National Palace, one of the most important Guatemalan architectural achievements of the last century. Formerly the seat of the government, it is now a museum and venue for government affairs.

Cathedral in Guatemala City

National Palace in Guatemala City

Constitution Plaza , Guatemala City

The tour also took us through the residential, the educational, and the business districts of the city to gain a full understanding of life in Guatemala City. We visited a gated residential district where many embassies and consulates are located. Photos are not allowed in this area. We also viewed at a distance zones that are deemed unsafe to visitors due to gang-related crimes, and passed by the Zoo.

The Zoo, Guatemala City

We walked through the city's Historic Centre, part of it is being converted to pedestrian-only area, and the Central Market where fresh produce and colourful handicrafts are visual treats.

Fruit in Central Market, Guatemala City

Fruit juice selection in my hotel

Guatemala City is a clean city as the municipal government has educated and encouraged its residents to keep the city clean. I was pleased with my decision to take the Guatemala City tour. It covered a lot of ground in three and a half hours. The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and with a small group, the pace was relaxing. This is my last stop in Guatemala, before flying home from La Aurora International Airport (airport code GUA) the next day.

My trip to Guatemala, known as the Land of Eternal Spring, was amazing! I hope you've enjoyed visiting (or revisiting) Guatemala through my lens.

I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Winter Fun List Final Update


Greetings! About two months ago, I posted my Winter Fun List for the period of 2018.12.21 to 2019.03.19 here, and provided my first update here where more than half of my list was checked off. Today, I'm sharing my Winter fun list final update.

MY WINTER FUN LIST FINAL UPDATE:

1. Enjoy my family holiday party: Yes, as mentioned in my Update #1 here.

2. Start the New Year 2019 at home: Yes, as mentioned in my Update #1 here.

3. Visit the Winter Flower Show: Yes, as written here and here.

4. Explore Guatemala in January: Yes, my itinerary took me to beautiful colonial Antigua, a colourful market in Chichicastenango, and a wonderful boat trip on Lake Atitlan to visit Santiago village. I was thrilled to see the active Fuego volcano. I plan to write a post on my stay in Guatemala City next week. The warm weather and vibrant colours in Guatemala made me feel happy while I was there and long after I returned home to our winter.

Guatemalan woman in Santiago village

5. Attend the Icefest event in February: Yes! I greatly enjoyed a 'fit and fun' outing to Icefest 2019 and wrote about it here. This is an outdoor event that showcases incredible ice sculptures and live ice carving demonstrations in Yorkville Park, in the heart of Toronto. This year's theme is Hollywood North, inspired by the success of the film industry in Toronto, and Yorkville known as the home of the stars. On the day of my visit, the high temperature was minus 5C, with the windchill it felt like minus 10C so there was no chance for the ice to melt :)

Icefest 2019 Hollywood North

6. Check out the Ice Breakers 2019 winter exhibition: Yes! I checked out the five winners of the Ice Breakers 2019 International Design Competition. They were installed outdoors, with the theme Signal Transmission. A post is coming up on this topic.

My kind of Christmas tree

7. Photograph snow-covered objects: Yes, as shown in the header photo and in my photo collage below. We've had a few snow storms in the past four weeks so I got to enjoy the beauty of winter during my morning walks. Mother Nature is truly amazing because she usually gives us a break with several good days after each snow storm and all is right again.

2019 winter scenery

8. Book a trip in the Spring with my sister: Yes! We've booked a guided tour to Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia. We're going in March. I'm very excited about this trip for the sights that we'll see and the memories we'll make.

So I've completed all eight items on my Winter Fun List and winter is officially still here until March 20. For the next four weeks, I plan to continue with my goals for 2019, read to prepare for my upcoming travel, and do some spring cleaning at home.

A friendly reminder that our next monthly Wellness link up is on Wednesday, March 13. The optional prompt is Indoor or Outdoor Fitness. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

How are things going with you? I'd love to hear your comments.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Wellness Post #2: Icefest 2019


Welcome to the second Wellness link up of 2019! We had a great kick-off in January. My first Wellness post of the year, A Fresh Start with Winter Flowers, was posted here. Feel free to join in on the fun with your recent or past wellness-related posts every second Wednesday of the month.

HEALTH GOAL UPDATES

I believe I'm doing well with my health goals which include daily meditation, walking 6x/ week, strength workouts 3x/ week, yoga 2x/ week, and swimming 1x/ week. While my meditation is fifteen minutes long, my walks and swimming sessions are forty-five minutes each. My strength workouts and yoga sessions are one hour each.

I use a simple sheet to keep track of all my goals for 2019, and write a monthly wrap up on my blog. My January wrap up, including my Health activities, is posted here.

ICEFEST for A HEALTHY HEART

For this month's Wellness post, since the optional prompt is Healthy Heart and February is Heart month, I planned a 'fit and fun' outing to Icefest 2019. This is an outdoor event that showcases ice sculptures and live ice carving demonstrations. Its location is in Bloor-Yorkville area, in the heart of Toronto. This year's theme is Hollywood North, inspired by the success of the film industry in Toronto, and Yorkville known as the home of the stars.

The Icefest event sponsors also support the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. Volunteers from the Heart and Stroke Foundation were on site to accept donations and answer questions. Their banner says "Life. We don't want you to miss it." I'd encourage readers to have a look at the Get Healthy section on their web site for heart-healthy tips on how to eat well, get moving, maintain healthy weight, stop smoking (if you smoke), and manage your stress.

    HOW I PREPARED
    • Choose a point of interest: Icefest 2019.
    • Bring what I need: Warm clothing, winter boots, a hearty winter spirit, my purse, and camera.
    • Arrive at the start time before the crowd arrives.

    WHAT I DID
    • Walk briskly for 20 minutes outdoors to arrive at the event location.
    • Walk around to view the ice sculptures and take photos for about 1 hour.
    • Choose a nice spot in a coffee shop to warm up and reflect after.

    WHAT FILLED UP MY SENSES
    1. Visual: There were about thirty amazing ice sculptures on display and a dozen live ice carving demonstrations. I include some of the photos that I took below.

    Lights, Camera, Action!

    Film reels, paparazzi, and an iconic Oscar

    An iconic Oscar, cinema facade, and a giant popcorn

    Tickets

    Director's chair

    Cut!

    Marilyn Monroe ice sculpture

    Reels

    Photographers

    Maple Leaf Hollywood North

    Car Crashing the Berlin Wall

    Maple Leaf and Oscar

    There were several more ice sculptures to promote the local businesses. Yorkville Park was also nicely decorated with lights and red balls. The park must sparkle at night with the lights and the crystal-clear ice sculptures.

    Light decorations at Yorkville Park

    Red ball decorations at Yorkville Park

    Yorkville Park

    2. Auditory: The ice carving competitors were working hard using various saws and carving tools. The spectators commented on the ice sculptures and the work in progress. Icefest Lounge had live DJs who played a special selection of music. It was a fun and festive atmosphere.

    Ice carving in progress

    Ice carving in progress

    3. Olfactory: The aroma from food trucks, hot chocolate stands, and surrounding coffee shops and restaurants were welcoming on a chilly day. Sassafraz Patio, one of the local restaurants, featured Icefest cocktails and hot beverages.

    4. Tactile: Spectators could touch the ice sculptures. Many people posed to take pictures at the Icefest photo booth and next to the ice sculptures. Some even climbed to sit on the giant ice Director's chair.

    Icefest 'Photo Booth'

    WHAT I GAINED
    • Raised heart rate from the brisk walk outdoors.
    • An enjoyable walk in Bloor-Yorkville area in the heart of Toronto.
    • Positive sensory experiences.
    • A coffee break to relax and warm up.

    OVERALL RATING - I gave this outing 5 out of 5 points, one point for each of the following:
    • Affordability: Admission to the event is free.
    • Elements that support wellness: The site is walkable, with a small park nearby.
    • Fun: The ice sculptures were impressive and artistic.
    • New experience: It was my first visit to Icefest 2019.
    • Uniqueness: The Icefest is annual and its theme is unique every year.

    I was pleased with how well this winter outing turned out. I left the Icefest feeling energized and joyful. The brisk walk and the incredible ice displays were good for my heart and mind.

    Be kind to your heart and have a happy Valentine's day!

    Heart-shaped #BeKind ice sculpture

    How are you keeping your heart healthy? I'd love to hear your comments.

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