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Bird Watching

Bird Watching

Bird Watching

Blue Jay

Bird watching is an excellent activity at any time in life but especially during retirement. You can do it alone or in a group. It’s a great way to get outdoors, close to nature in a new environment or simply in your own backyard. Getting close to nature has been shown to be good for your health. It’s calming and an activity that can’t be rushed. Bird watching (or birding) helps us appreciate Mother Earth and reminds us to be kind to our environment. It’s really fun to try to find a new species to add to your list and try to figure out what you saw.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

To begin bird watching, you need a few things:

  1. Binoculars
    • Borrow some first to see what you like. It’s really worth spending a bit more for better viewing. Also you have to carry them around so make sure they aren’t too heavy! I love our Nikon 8×42 waterproof binoculars (which by the way are great for boating too).
  2. Camera
    • To start out you don’t need a camera, but if you intend to document what you’ve seen, then you’ll need a zoom lens. But even a blurry picture can help you identify a bird.
  3. Bird Book
    • Find a good bird book for your area that has good images and descriptions of behaviour, calls and habitation and migration information. You can also search on the web for information.
  4. Bird Feeder
    • A quality bird feeder that keeps squirrels off will help attract birds to your own backyard. Clean it every once in a while to prevent birds spreading disease. Keep it filled so birds learn to come back. Also consider putting out suet, which attracts woodpeckers. A great option for your regular feeder is the Squirrel Buster available from Lee Valley Tools.

Once you’re set-up, start small and work on identifying the birds in your own backyard. Then venture out for walks around your neighbourhood. Perhaps there’s a pond nearby, so you can find other types of birds. Some people join groups with other birders and even go on trips to find migrating birds.

Osprey
Osprey taking flight

I started making a list of some of the birds I see frequently. I surprised myself because the list is by no means complete but it is actually quite long. I know I’ve missed many birds but it’s really amazing the variety on this initial list! In Ontario, Canada there are lots of beautiful birds including:

  • Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • American Song Sparrow
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Evening Heron
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Common Flicker
  • Mallard Duck
  • Canada Goose
  • Rose Breasted Grosbeak
  • Common Loon
  • Common Grackle
  • Bohemian Waxwing
  • American Robin
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Seagull
  • Phoebe Bird
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Slate-coloured Junco
  • Osprey
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Owls – many types

And the list goes on! Wow! My husband and I love spotting different birds while we are out for our walks either first thing in the morning or later in the evening.

What birds have you seen?

Read also Go Outside!

Tips to Help Improve Digestion

Tips to Help Improve Digestion

5 Tips to Help Improve Digestion

  1. Chew your food! No matter how hungry you are or how rushed your schedule, take the time to chew your food properly. Swallowing smaller pieces of food helps with digestion, making you feel more full and prevent overeating. Take the time to enjoy and taste the food!
  2. Drink plenty of water and eliminate sugary drinks and alcohol. Our bodies need water and it’s important to stay hydrated.
  3. Eat fibre. Most people don’t get the recommended daily intake. Fibre lowers cholesterol and blood sugar. It also massages the digestive tract and feeds the probiotics. Women should aim for 21 to 28g of fibre and men should aim for 30 to 38g of fibre. The best way to increase fibre is to increase consumption of whole foods like vegetables, fruit, oatmeal, quinoa, beans and lentils.
  4. Support probiotics. The natural digestive “bugs” in the gut help break down food and stimulate a strong immune system. They help toxins from being absorbed into the body and create essential nutrients. Eating fermented foods, which are full of good bacteria, is important like yogurt (non-dairy is my preference) and sauerkraut. Some newer research also suggests prebiotics are also important. The best foods to support prebiotics are fresh fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables.
  5. Exercise regularly. But choose your exercise times wisely. Digestion requires a large amount of blood flow and exercising right after a big meal can cause indigestion, heartburn and bloating. A light walk after a meal is ok because it stimulates the rhythmic digestive muscles. Save the big workouts for before the meal or 2 hours after a meal.

Listen to your body. If you have digestion problems, consider an elimination diet to determine foods that may cause you problems.

 

What tips help your digestion?

Please leave your comments below…

Read also about Intermittent Fasting and Portion Control.

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria is the capital city of Canada’s province British Columbia. It is located on the southern most tip of Vancouver Island and is the most southern part of Western Canada. It is about 100km from British Columbia’s largest city, Vancouver, on the mainland. It is accessible by air or by boat. Greater Victoria has a population of about 365,000.

BC Parliament & Queen Victoria statue
Victoria Legislature at night
Detailed ceiling inside Legislature Building

Named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, it is one of the oldest cities of the Pacific Northwest, settled by the British in 1843. The city has maintained many of its original buildings including the impressive Legislature buildings and the Empress Hotel. It is also known as the Garden City with its beautiful flower gardens throughout. Many tourists flock to the popular Butchart Gardens.

Butchart Gardens
Victoria water taxi

The harbour is a busy place and is easily walkable. Popular for both boaters and retirees, it has the most temperature year-round climate within Canada with warm dry summers and mild, wet winters with little to no snow. Due to the mild climate, it is home to interesting birds, plants and trees. The economy is primarily technology, tourism, education and BC’s provincial government. The city is easily accessible by foot, bicycle, bus or car. Victoria’s waterfront harbour is a busy place with water taxis, private floatplanes, tour boats and private boats. If you’re thinking of visiting this lovely place, you will be sure to be impressed! The best time of year to visit to avoid larger crowds would be spring (March, April, May) or fall (September, October).

Victoria’s busy harbour
Fisherman’s Wharf
Ogden Point cruise ships
Fisgard Lighthouse

Some of the most popular tourist spots are:

Some useful links:

Have you ever been to Victoria?

Read also about Vancouver Island and Tofino.

Orange Spice Candied Almonds

Orange Spice Candied Almonds

Orange Spice Candied Almonds

This is a versatile recipe that you can make quite quickly. It can be a delicious snack on the go or even a treat during the holidays. Nuts are a good source of protein and almonds are one of my top choices. Nuts are great for topping on a salad too. (Just make sure not to over-indulge since they are more calorie dense.) You can substitute your favourite nuts here or even use a combination like pecans, walnuts and cashews.

  • 5-1/2 cups raw whole almonds
  • 4 Tbsp canola oil
  • 4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • rind of one navel orange
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar

 

Preheat oven to 325F. In small bowl combine cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, turmeric and brown sugar. Set aside spice mixture.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Then spread almonds evenly on each. Toast almonds for 6-7 minutes. Next, whisk together canola oil, maple syrup and orange rind in large bowl. Remove almonds from oven and to large bowl and coat almonds generously in oil/maple syrup mixture. Add the spice mixture and mix evenly. Return almonds to 2 cookie sheets, spreading evenly. Bake another 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to ensure even cooking. Allow to cool completely. Enjoy!

What’s your favourite nut to snack on?

Leave your comments below…

See some other recipes here.

Top Tips to Pack Smart

Top Tips to Pack Smart

12 Top Tips to Pack Smart

  1. Pack Light – If you can manage it, travel only with a carry-on. Travelling with only a carry-on makes travel so much simpler. If you need to transfer flights checked bags can be a hindrance.
  2. Wear heavier and bulkier items to avoid carrying them in your bag.
  3. If required buy what you need at your destination. Buy heavy liquid toiletries at your destination to save carrying them!
  4. Learn how to pack well. Leave no space unused. Save space in your bag by rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Stuff smaller items like socks and underwear in your shoes.
  5. Use plastic bags to compartmentalize. This makes it easier to find things quickly. Use a plastic bag for dirty laundry. Use Ziplok type bags for accessories. Old newspaper bags can be used for shoes.
  6. Pack earplugs, inflatable cushion and/or eye mask. If you can manage the cost and room in your bag, take noise cancelling earphones or earbuds. It’s important to get rest where possible.
  7. Keep a sarong or scarf in your bag. It can double as a blanket or pillow on the plane, a shawl on a cold evening, beach cover-up, picnic blanket, change room screen, etc.
  8. Take your own snacks for the plane. You’ll save money and keep hunger under control. Your food will probably be healthier too.
  9. Make photocopies of your passports. Take pictures of your passport to have a copy on your phone. Use your phone to take pictures of a rental car.
  10. Use a security wallet. Take some cash, one bank card and one credit card in your wallet. Put the remaining cash and 2nd credit card, driver’s licence, travel insurance info in a money belt under your clothes.
  11. Avoid roaming charges or only use WIFI at hotels, etc. Keep maps and travel guides on your iPhone instead of carrying maps and travel books. Keep books on your iPhone or iPad.
  12. Wear travel pants with pockets where you can store your travel documents for quick easy access. Wear (and pack) versatile, comfortable, low-maintenance clothing that is designed for travel. It is usually wrinkle-free and can be quickly washed in a hotel sink.

 

What are your packing tips?

Please leave your tips in the comments section below…

Read also Travel Safety Checklist, How to Travel Light.

Chocolate Almond Brownies

Chocolate Almond Brownies

Chocolate Almond Brownies

This is a delicious go-to recipe from OhSheGlows and has a really nice brownie texture. I love how it seems light but chewy at the same time! I always make a double batch since they don’t last in my house! Here is the double batch recipe…

  • 2 flax eggs
  • 2 cups ground almond meal
  • 1-3/4 cups brown rice flour or oat flour
  • 4 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (plus ½ cup) non-dairy chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
  • 2 cups organic sugar
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

 

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two square pans with parchment paper. In a small bowl mix 2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax seed mixed with 6 Tbsp warm water). Set aside to gel.

In large bowl whisk together ground almond meal, rice or oat flour, arrowroot powder, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda. In medium bowl melt 1 cup chocolate chips and vegan butter in microwave until most chips have melted, being careful not to over heat. Stir until smooth. Stir in flax eggs, sugar, almond milk and vanilla until combined. Add to dry mixture and combine well with spatula until there is no flour on the bottom of the bowl. Fold in walnuts. Press better evenly into the 2 square pans and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top pressing slightly into batter.

Bake for 30-34 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

How do you eat brownies?

With (n)ice cream, fresh strawberries or simply as is? 

See also Rocky Road Fudge.

Swimming

Swimming

Swimming – a full body exercise

Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. It is a good workout because the water provides consistent resistance and makes your body work. It provides an excellent cardiovascular workout but also minimizes impact on your joints. It’s beneficial at any age and for any fitness level…

Kids playing in an above-ground pool

Swimming can be enjoyed as an individual or team sport and is one of the most popular sports in the summer Olympics for breaststroke, back stroke, butterfly stroke and freestyle. There are also relay events and even artistic events such as synchronized swimming.

But swimming as a more casual form of exercise is an excellent way to maintain a healthy weight and keep your muscles toned. It is a low impact activity that has several mental and physical health benefits. Swimming is linked to better cognitive function, lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, lower risk of high blood pressure and lower risk of stroke. People are typically able to exercise longer in water with minimal effort and minimal joint or muscle pain.

No matter your fitness level, swimming can benefit you! If you don’t know how to swim, make sure to take swimming lessons. It’s a valuable skill that will last a lifetime and it’s never to late to learn!

Water Aerobics Class

Swimming can be a great way to meet new friends. Consider taking a class like water aerobics. There are so many options for swimming in pools in almost every community. Open-water swimming on a natural body of water like a lake, river or even an ocean promotes adventure during the summer months. With a minimal amount of equipment you can go snorkelling to explore under the surface! Be smart and be safe. Swim with a buddy and tell someone where you are. Be aware of your fitness level and choose a safe environment.

Exploring underwater in a lake

The benefits of swimming include:

  • Full body workout
  • Requires minimal equipment
  • Keep muscles toned
  • Increase flexibility
  • Strengthens the core
  • Burns calories
  • Builds endurance
  • Great for cross-training
  • Time to de-stress
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Low chance of injury
  • Don’t worry about sweat
  • It’s refreshing on a hot day
  • Lowers risk of diseases
  • Improves overall health

 

I love to swim off the back of our boat in fresh-water lakes. Where do you like to swim?

Please let me know in the comments section below…

Read also about walkingrunning and strength-training.

Thai Crunch Salad

Thai Crunch Salad

Thai Crunch Salad

This is a healthy, flavourful dish that is quick to prepare and very colourful. It makes a meal in itself, but could also be a side. I love the peanut based dressing!

  • 4 cups Savoy or Napa cabbage, Romaine lettuce (or a combination) thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned
  • ½ cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup frozen edamame, thawed (or chickpeas)
  • optional toppings:
    • cilantro
    • crushed peanuts
    • squeeze of lime or lemon wedge

Toss all ingredients in large bowl. Prepare salad dressing:

 

Thai Peanut Dressing

  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp plain almond milk or coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp sweet red chilli sauce
  • ½ tsp lime or lemon juice
  • 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/4 tsp rice vinegar
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • ground ginger, to taste
  • dash of Siracha

Combine all ingredients in microwave-safe jug. Heat on high for 30 seconds or so until peanut butter is melty. Whisk together and pour over salad. Toss to coat. Garnish with optional toppings. My favourite is crushed peanuts and squeeze of fresh lime juice.

What’s your favourite Thai dish?

Please leave your comments below…

Original recipe from Happy Herbivore

See more of my recipes.

Reduce Sugar Intake

Reduce Sugar Intake

How to reduce your sugar intake…

The biggest hurdle to reducing sugar is initially taste. Store bought processed foods all have an excessive amount of sugar (and salt) so our taste buds are used to more sweet flavours. Sugar is hidden in foods you wouldn’t think contain too much added sugar like crackers, condiments, peanut butter to name a few! When we eat this way our blood sugar levels are unstable and puts us on track for conditions like diabetes.

The way we start our day is especially important for setting the tone. I find if I eat something particularly sweet for breakfast, I am constantly craving that sweetness all day. Do you find that too? To help reduce sugar, start breakfast with unprocessed foods like fruit, fruit smoothies, whole grain bread, granola or oatmeal.

Add natural ingredients for sweeteners, like maple syrup and honey. Even fruit itself is sweet (bananas, pineapple, strawberries). Coconut has a natural sweetness, when added to trail mix or granola.

Try not to stock processed foods and sweets in your house. They are difficult to resist and if we keep these foods for treats, then an indulgence once in a while is ok compared to every day. Consider changing your definition of treat from store-bought chocolate chip cookies to a healthier homemade version. Keep them in the freezer so you have to defrost it before eating. If the temptation passes, keep it for another time.

Try roasting vegetables and eating as is or top them on a salad. The simple process of roasting vegetables brings out more flavour and sweetness. They start to caramelize and taste so delicious! Also make your own salad dressings to reduce sugar and oil content.

Be careful with beverages. Fruit juices and pop all contain a lot of sugar and most of us don’t take those extra calories into account. Instead drink flavoured water or herbal teas.

Lastly balance the sweetness with fibre. Fibre slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream giving your liver more time to deal with the calories. You can do this by adding nuts and seeds (like ground flax) and focus on sweets that involve fresh fruit that has its own fibre.

Once you more aware of added sugar in foods, your taste buds will change and you will start to appreciate foods in a more natural state, as they were meant to be eaten. Flavour can be added without the extra sugar.

How did you reduce your sugar intake?

Please let me know if the comment section below…

Read also Understanding Nutrients

Ginger Beans and Carrots

Ginger Beans and Carrots

Ginger Beans and Carrots

This recipe is flavourful and can stand on its own or as a side. It’s even delicious as leftovers for lunch the next day! It only takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete…

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp peeled and grated gingerroot
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, sliced into thin rounds
  • 12 oz green beans, trimmed (or green & yellow beans)
  • 1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • sprinkle of sesame seeds (toasted if desired)

Heat wok over high heat, then drizzle canola oil around edges. Wash carrots and green beans, then add to wok along with ginger. Saute for 2 minutes while continuing to stir. Season with soy sauce and vinegar and toss to coat. Cover with large lid and allow to steam to desired doneness. Once done, serve immediately and sprinkle sesame seeds over top. Enjoy!

How do you prepare green beans?

Share your ideas in the comments below…

See also Roasted Vegetables.