Monday, 31 July 2017

Tirgan festival, Local sights, and 6K run

I’ve explored and experienced so much fun from Friday to Sunday, I just have to write about them here. I think the daily formula of 1.5 hours of fitness + 1 to 3 hours of outdoor fun is working very well for me this summer :)

Toronto Music Garden
On Friday evening, we went to the Tirgan festival to attend Kiosk the band outdoor concert at Harbourfront. The five-person band performed in Persian language, and their music was fantastic. The big crowd loved it and showed their appreciation with singalongs, and rounds of applause after each song.

Kiosk the band at Tirgan festival
On Saturday, I swam 55 laps earlier in the morning to get my fitness routine done before my relatives arrived. They have visited us in Toronto before but it’s been a while. The city has changed quite a bit since their last visit so I took them sightseeing where they haven’t been.

We spent about three hours strolling, chatting, and stopping to take pictures. Our walk included City Hall, the Financial District, Brookfield Place, and the Flat Iron building that I wrote about here. Lunch was at the historic St Lawrence Market (established in 1803), and cappuccinos at Cafe Balzac’s. A fun stop at Berczy Park to see the park's new design. The park was recently reopened at the end of June with a historic centrepiece, a large fountain that has 27 dog and one cat sculptures, and a golden bone sits atop the fountain. I enjoyed showing my relatives some local sights, and they were impressed with what they’ve seen. We returned home for dinner, relaxing and talking about possible meet-ups next summer.

Berczy Park fountain
Cafe Balzac's entrance
Cappuccino at Cafe Balzac's

On Sunday, it was sunny and warm 30 Celsius (88F). I ran my first 6K on a Life Fitness treadmill in the air-con gym in the morning. I had this idea after reading Deb’s I Can Do This post about her upcoming 6K race in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been running 5K weekly since April and have done several 5K races before. I knew I could do 6K but never had any particular reason to do it. I’d like to try new activities that stretch me and mix things up from time to time to keep me interested. Now I can say I ran 6K on a treadmill. I felt great after the run. Success!

In the afternoon,  we went to the Toronto Music Garden for the Tio Chorinho: Brazilian Soul Music show at 4 PM. The musicians and singer stayed in the shade, and most of the audience were in the sun. We came prepared with sun hats. There are also scattered shades around the garden although you may not be able to see the band, just hear the music.

Brazil Soul Music at Toronto Music Garden

Toronto Music Garden
Marina by Toronto Music Garden

It was a beautiful day, in a beautiful garden setting by the lake front, and to listen to live music played by talented performers...Simply incredible! My pictures do not show enough of the garden’s beauty. If you’d like to learn more about the garden design and its history, please see the Toronto Music Garden web site. Such a lovely end to my weekend!

Plans for Monday to Thursday this week:
  • Exercise an hour daily
  • Learn Spanish 15 minutes daily
  • Wrap up my joyful July in a sentence a day
  • Prepare for a family long weekend getaway 
I hope you had a beautiful weekend, too. Make it a great week wherever you are!

Friday, 28 July 2017

6 new experiences

Happy Friday! I wrote on Monday that I planned to explore two new-to-me outdoor farmers’ markets and attend up to three concerts this week. Well, I’m glad I did and now I can share with you not just five but my six new experiences. I'm still smiling thinking about them.

1. Bike Share Toronto had a Free Ride Wednesdays promotion in July so I picked up a bike and went exploring a few new-to-me places in the city centre. As long as I dropped off the bike in 30 minutes at any of the bike stations around the city, there was no charge. Within the city core, I can ride to quite a few places in 30 minutes! Off I went with my helmet and cross-body handbag. It was fun to cycle in non-rush hours :)

2. My first bike stop was at the new-to-me Scotia Plaza Farmers’ Market which is right in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District. It is on every Wednesday, beginning June 14th to August 30th, from 8 am to 6 pm. It is a small market but with its location, and a good selection of fresh produce, freshly baked breads and pastries, artisan cheeses, wines, preserves, etc. it is likely busy at lunch time.

Scotia Plaza farmers' market

3. My second bike stop was at Adelaide Eats which is 2-3 short blocks west of the Scotia Plaza farmers’ market. It’s an outdoor food market with tents and picnic benches. It’s open until July 28th with an impressive list of food artisans. I should have checked this place out sooner. It would have been a terrific place to have lunch with my friends.

Adelaide Eats sign and entrance
Adelaide Eats picnic benches

4. My last bike stop was at City Hall Farmers’ Market which also runs on every Wednesday, beginning May 31 to October 18, from 8 am to 2 pm, rain or shine. This farmers’ market looks like the biggest that I’ve visited this summer. Aside from the fresh produce, there are treats for humans, as well as dogs! Yummy all around :) In case you get thirsty, there is a cool-looking water truck in the square. You can turn on the tap located along side of the truck, and fill up your water bottle.

Toronto City Hall farmers' market

Fill-up and Go water truck

5. A nice bonus to the City Hall Farmers’ Market is the City Hall Live! music showcase which features local artists on Wednesdays, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. Jayri and a friend were performing when I was there. Strong vocals by both artists and very good acoustics considering the size of the stage and the civic square. There are tables and chairs where people can sit, have lunch, and enjoy the music. Jayri and friend

6. On Thursday, I went to another farmers’ market at David Pecaut Square to listen to Sol de Cuba’s performance. As soon as I saw the name of the band on the Indulge Your Senses program, I knew it would be fun and I was right. The quartet played cha cha cha, mambo, lambada, and similar beats. Their passionate performance was contagious. Although only a few people got up to dance, many more in the audience were tapping their feet, clapping their hands, or singing along. All in all a great show!

Sol de Cuba
I’m so enjoying and appreciating farm fresh food, live music, arts, and quality time outdoors this summer!

My plans for the weekend:
  • Attend a concert at the Tirgan music festival Friday evening
  • Swim 50-55 laps on Saturday morning
  • Spend time with my relatives before they leave on Sunday
  • Run 6K on Sunday morning (adding an extra 1K)
  • Shop groceries for the week
  • Step up my preparation for our trip to Spain (we're leaving in less than 2 weeks!)
I'd love to hear your fun plan for the weekend. Have a great one wherever you are!

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:
  • Exercise for up to an hour daily
  • 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!