Sunday, 29 October 2017

My first guest post

Happy Sunday! Today is a special day for me since I’m guest posting on Donna Connolly’s fabulous Retirement Reflections blog.

I’ve enjoyed Donna’s writing and other guest bloggers’ writing in her Sunday Guest Post series for a while now. I feel humbled to be part of the series, and for my very first guest post to appear on one of the Top International Retirement blogs in 2017.

I also enjoy the fact that this guest post is featured in the same month that I celebrate my blog’s 1st anniversary on October 10th, and on another Canadian blog (Go Canada Go!).

Whether you're a retiree or not yet, I'm sure you'll find great insights from Donna's posts, her guest bloggers' posts, and her readers' comments.

Please hop on over, check it out, and make new connections. If you could leave a comment there, it would be greatly appreciated! 

I look forward to seeing you there. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Cheering on at 2017 STWM

I was up bright and early on Sunday to cheer on three family members who ran the half-marathon and 5K at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) event.

About 25,000 people from 70 countries took part in the marathon, half-marathon, and 5K. The marathon and half-marathon started at 8:45 a.m., while the 5K started at 8 a.m. We’ve had a good stretch of warm and sunny days leading up to the event, and perfect weather on Sunday with temperature at 11C (or 55F) at the start of the race and high about 21C (70F) by mid-day. The annual event raised funds for over 180 local charities, and contributed millions to the local economy.

This was the 28th edition of the STWM event and it was once again well organized. For runners, the race course was clearly set with kilometre markers and water and Gatorade stations. For spectators, there were 12 Neighbourhood Cheering and Entertainment sites along the race course. I saw many volunteers with cow bells, bands playing music, and police re-directing traffic.

If you have been a spectator at a big international running race before, you know the energy that thousands of runners generate, and the inspiration to see runners crossing the Finish line. Running a race is definitely a physical and mental challenge where first time runners want to do well, and repeat runners want to beat their own personal record and create a new personal best.

As a supporter, you'd want to find a spot where you can easily spot your family or friend who is running. It is not that easy when there are hundreds of runners passing by in waves. Even if you are not a runner, if there is a race where you live, I'd encourage you to come out, feel the energy, and cheer on the participants.

I ran the 5K course in this event a few years ago and am familiar with the race course. On Sunday, I walked up to the 200m mark before the Finish line with my plastic clapping hands. There are actually three hands attached to a handle. The outer two hands are flexible while the centre hand is fixed so when you wave, the hands make loud clapping noise and really get people's attention. I estimated my family members' run times, and found a spot with great visibility to locate them. I was there to see the first finisher of the 5K,  and my family members soon after. I definitely got their attention with my loud cheering and hand clapping!

The Finish line and Friends & Family meeting zones were right by Toronto City Hall. Runners had lots of post-race refreshments available to help them recover from their hard work. Congrats to all STWM race finishers! My family members did very well. I’m so proud of their achievements.

I'm loving life at the moment as everyone in my family is healthy. Each one of us has a finisher's medal with good run time this year. I've got mine at the Island Girl 5K in September as posted here.

What fun activities did you enjoy this week? Please share below.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Fall fun list update #1

Greetings! Today I'm providing an update on my Fall fun list, and linking up with several fabulous bloggers who also share their updates. It's a good exercise for me to go through, not only to remind me of my good intentions, but also to feel grateful for all the fun that I've been experiencing. Thanks, Leslie, for organizing the link-up.

My Fall fun list of 20:

1. Exercise in the gym 3x per week, one hour each time. In progress. I exercise in the gym 3x per week, except when I was in Ireland. Without access to a gym, I walked, and modified my exercises using my body weight and a resistance band.

2. Yoga 2x per week, up to one hour each time. In progress. This is an enjoyable activity so I have no trouble to continue.

3. Swim 1x per week, up to one hour. In progress. I swim every Saturday, except when I was in Ireland and did not have access to a swimming pool.

4. Run short distance 1x per week, up to 5K. In progress. I run 5K every Sunday, except on September 24, I walked 5K in lieu of running due to a heat warning.

5. Celebrate Thanksgiving and my blog's 1st anniversary with a pumpkin pie. Yes! It was yummy. I can get a pumpkin pie most of the time where I live but saving it for Thanksgiving in October makes it more special.

6. Enjoy a therapeutic massage. Yes! It was a very nice self-care treat.

7. Travel to Ireland in October. Yes! I had a wonderful time exploring Ireland.

A taste of Ireland landscape

8. Visit Dublin, capital city of Ireland. Yes! I explored Dublin on foot and enjoyed the city very much.
Dublin Castle
9. Explore the landscapes along Ireland's wild Atlantic side. Yes! Ireland's natural landscapes along the Wild Atlantic Way were amazing. I'd love to return for more exploring.

Skellig Michael, Ireland

10. Write my first guest post on another blog. Yes! My writing is done. The guest post will be featured on Sunday, October 29 at 9 a.m. Toronto time. Please check back on that day for my reveal and join in on the fun.

11. Email my friends who live overseas. In progress. One done, a few more to go.

12. Meet my local friends for coffee. In progress. Even better than a coffee date, I had lunch with one of my girlfriends. I have a coffee date next week, and another lunch date with two girlfriends in early November.

13. Watch a new-to-me movie. Yes! I watched Wonder Woman. I'd like to see more movies this year.

14. Attend a concert. Yes! I attended the Red Slam concert. I'd like to attend more concerts this season.

15. View a new art exhibition. Yes! I viewed several art projects at Nuit Blanche, saw the giant Olmec head display at the Magic of Latin America art exhibition in Toronto, and world-class art work at the National Art Gallery of Ireland.

The Giant Olmec Head

16. Take a trip to Central Europe in November with my sister. Pending.

17. Explore Budapest, capital city of Hungary. Pending.

18. Visit Bratislava, capital city of Slovakia. Pending.

19. Re-visit Vienna, capital city of Austria. Pending.

20. Explore Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic. Pending. 

I counted nine completed items, six in progress, and five pending. I intend to continue with my fitness activities #1 to #4, do more of #11 to #15, and definitely look forward to completing #16 to #20 in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Exploring Ireland

Greetings! I’ve been back from Ireland for a few days, and finally got around to write my trip recap with selected pictures.

I had a wonderful time in Ireland. Most of what I day dreamed about Ireland came true. I feel fortunate that I was able to explore a lot there before Hurricane Ophelia, the worst storm in recorded history on the island of Ireland, arrived.

My Top 10 Great Experiences in Ireland:

1) Friendly and welcoming Irish people: The Welcome sign in Gaelic and English is everywhere in Ireland. I was impressed that the local residents are still so friendly despite the high number of tourists arrives in Ireland year after year.

2) Lively Dublin with amazing sights that are free to visit: I walked to explore Dublin on my own, and also joined a free walking tour which was excellent. I visited all the major sights such as Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Molly Malone statue, Ha’penny Bridge, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the General Post Office (site of the 1916 Easter Rising), Grafton Street (main shopping street), the Temple Bar area, and many more. I met a graduate student from Germany and we spent a wonderful afternoon enjoying tea and browsing books at a place called Books Upstairs, as well as viewing world class art collections at the National Gallery of Ireland for free.

Trinity College

Dublin Castle
Molly Malone statue
Ha'penny Bridge

3) Comfortable train rides from Dublin to other counties and back: I had ordered my rail tickets online before my trip. It was straightforward to print the tickets at the train stations. The trains were on time, with stop announcements and monitor displays in Gaelic and English. The rides were all so relaxing.

4) Lush green scenery dotted with sheep, cows, and horses: It was a real visual treat to see one green rolling hill after another. I liked the sheep with paint on their backs for the farmers to know which sheep belong to them.

5) Beautiful landscapes in Killarney National Park and the Ring of Kerry: The mountains here are soft in appearance. Killarney National Park was simply lovely. I think I could easily spend at least a week there to hike, or go boating, or go on a buggy ride. The Ring of Kerry had amazing scenery for miles.

Killarney National Park

Ring of Kerry landscape

6) Deer seen roaming in Killarney National Park: It’s always a thrill for me to see wildlife in their natural habitat, without looking threatened by human visitors. I was very close to a mother deer and a baby deer while hiking on a trail, and saw a stag with big antlers at a distance.

7) Delicious seafood and all kinds of “Irish weather" along the Wild Atlantic Way: I had salmon and seafood chowder at different pubs and they were all delicious. On one day, the local weather changed quickly from sunny, to cloudy, to rain drizzle, to heavy rain with strong winds, and back to sunny at different parts of the Wild Atlantic Way. We faced dense fog upon arriving at the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren but had fairly good weather everywhere else.

Bunratty Castle
8) What I learned about Ireland from the tour guides: I was on a walking tour in Dublin, a day tour from Cork, and a day tour from Killarney. All three tour guides were very helpful, knowledgeable, and humorous.

Ladies View

9) The friends I’ve met in Dublin and Killarney: Even in shoulder season, there were many international visitors in Ireland. I met and made new friends from Germany, and Canada.

10) The rich literature, poetry, and music throughout Ireland: What can I say? This is the country of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and other world famous writers. The live music at Irish pubs was memorable fun.

St. Stephen's Green Park, Dublin

Note to self: Next time I go to Ireland, I'll definitely spend more time at Killarney National Park and along the Wild Atlantic Way.

I hope you enjoy my recap and pictures of Ireland. Please feel free to comment.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Happy 1st blog year

Greetings! My blog turned one year old today! I started writing on October 10, 2016 at 10 a.m. and published my first post that afternoon.

It's been a fun journey for me to write, post words and pictures, and play with Blogger functions. So far the best part is to connect with other bloggers and to receive readers' comments. You have been FANTASTIC! Thank you all for your support and virtual friendships.

Here are some fun facts about my blog as of October 4, 2017:
- 19 posts published in 2016
- 75 posts published in 2017
- Post with the highest number of comments: Fall fun list
- 1st post to receive a comment: Prince Edward Island
- 1st link up: Sentence a day, organized by sweet friend Leslie

I enjoy exploring my home city, exploring the world, and practicing healthy living so you'll see more of my stories on these topics in the coming days.

I've scheduled this post before going to Ireland. My plan for next week after I return is to write about my first trip to Ireland with pictures.

What fun activities did you enjoy this week? Please share.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

September in a sentence a day

Greetings! September was a splendid month that seems to pass by too quickly for me. We had summer-like weather the entire month, and a five-day heat wave in the last week. I kept up with my exercise routine, finished a 5K race feeling great, enjoyed several arts and entertainment events, and finalized my travel plans for Ireland in October and Central Europe in November.

Today, I’m excited to join in with a group of fabulous bloggers to share my September in a sentence a day review. My thanks to Leslie who organized the sentence a day link up.

September in a sentence a day

1. Welcomed September with a workout in the gym, and extended my vacation mode by reviewing and posting selected pictures from Cordoba.

2. Enjoyed swimming 50 laps in the morning and a fun BBQ with our extended family in the afternoon.

3. Ran 5K, took Spanish lessons, grocery shopped, and thought of Spain when I posted selected pictures from Seville.

4. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, did laundry, and ran some errands.

5. Went for a leisure 45-minute walk, practiced yoga, took Spanish lessons, and posted selected pictures from Gibraltar.

6. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, and posted my August in a sentence a day review.

7. Went for a leisure 45-minute walk, practiced yoga, took Spanish lessons, and  watched Guardians of the Galaxy II movie with my young neighbours in the evening.

8. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, and watched the Spiderman: Homecoming movie in the theatre when my dental appointment was rescheduled at the last minute.

9. Enjoyed swimming 50 laps, took Spanish lessons, did grocery runs, and visited the Veg Food Fest and Colleen Allen’s concert.

10. Ran 5K, took Spanish lessons, did laundry, and attended the Love’s Lament concert at the Toronto Music Garden.

11. Exercised in the gym with a friend, took Spanish lessons, and accepted an invite to write my first guest post on another blog.

12. Practiced yoga, took Spanish lessons, and took in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) buzz while out and about on this beautiful day.

13. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, and continued to enjoy TIFF.

14. Practiced yoga, took Spanish lessons, visited our farmers’ market, and talked to my sister about our travel plan.

15. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, and enjoyed another perfect summer day with a picnic at a local park.

16. Swam 50 laps in the morning, picked up my race kit, did house chores, and read about Ireland.

17. Finished the Island Girl 5K race, with better time than last year, and felt great afterwards.

18. Exercised in the gym, took Spanish lessons, and thought about fun activities for autumn season.

19. Practiced yoga, booked accommodations in Ireland, and did more travel reading.

20. Exercised in the gym, booked flights for trip to Ireland, and posted my Fall fun list.

21. Practiced yoga, booked train tickets in Ireland, visited our farmers’ market, and watched Wonder Woman movie with family tonight.

22. Exercised in the gym and emailed to wish my friend in Europe a happy birthday.

23. Enjoyed swimming for 45 minutes, especially with a heat warning in Toronto for the next five days, and did house chores.

24. Walked 5K in lieu of running early in the morning, due to a record-breaking warm day, posted my 5 tips to stay fit while traveling, and spent the rest of the day relaxing with family and friends.

25. Exercised in the gym which has air-con and did house chores indoor while the heat warning was still on.

26. Practiced yoga, and prepared an itinerary for trip to Ireland.

27. Enjoyed a therapeutic massage and relaxed for the rest of the day with travel reading.

28. Went for a leisure 45-minute walk, practiced yoga, and visited our farmers’ market knowing they’ll be closing for the season by mid-October.

29. Exercised in the gym in the morning then spent some focused time to edit my guest post.

30. Wrapped up a splendid September with swimming for 45 minutes in the morning, stocking up our fridge with groceries, sending in my guest post for October, and attending Nuit Blanche event in the evening.

Can you believe that three quarters of 2017 are now behind us? I look forward to taking my trip to Ireland and exploring more fun activities in October.

Be sure to visit the linked up blogs below for more seasonal inspiration, or join us to share your list of fun activities this season.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Nuit Blanche

Happy Sunday! Are you a night owl who likes contemporary art? If you are, plan to attend Nuit Blanche. If you are not, how about simply going out on a beautiful autumn evening and connect with the pulse of the city?

Nuit Blanche Toronto is a free, annual, city-wide, all-night celebration of contemporary art, usually scheduled at the beginning of October. This year it was on from sunset on Saturday September 30 to sunrise on Sunday October 1. The theme for Nuit Blanche 2017 is “Many Possible Futures”, with art projects displayed at various locations, most of them are in downtown Toronto.

We had a perfect, sunny and cool Saturday which encouraged people to be out and about. I was eager to visit the art displays and concert at Nathan Phillips Square. There were some road closures to accommodate a variety of art installations and to make the experience more pedestrian-friendly. I saw many attendees, volunteers, security personnel and police directing traffic. The volunteers handed out brochures and fielded questions from attendees. Lots of people used their mobile devices to navigate to the art projects. There is also an Information booth on site for new visitors.

Some interesting numbers about Nuit Blanche 2017 and 2016:
  • 2017 is the 12th edition
  • This year includes 90 art projects created by 350 local, national, and international artists
  • Over one million people attended last year’s Nuit Blanche
  • About 200,000 attendees were out-of-town visitors
  • The event generated about $41 million for Toronto

People started lining up in Nathan Phillips Square before 7 p.m. when Nuit Blanche began:

Old City Hall looked good with the golden glow before sunset:

Twenty contemporary art displays in large containers under the Monument to the Century of Revolutions category:

Red Slam concert was one of the highlights:

A hot air balloon event was on on the west side of Nathan Phillips Square:

I visited a few indoor art projects as well. It was a beautiful autumn evening, made even more special with Nuit Blanche Toronto!

What fun activities did you enjoy this week? Please share below.