reading

Doors and Passages: Pixelventures Photo Challenge

In 2008 I took a photo of an old wooden door with brass details in a church in Cuba and ever since I have been drawn to interesting doors. The more they are weathered, with faded peeling paint the more interesting. I participated in a similar photo challenge earlier this year (see Knobs and Knockers), so instead of reposting those photos click on the link to check them out.

Here are my latest additions as we head into another great photo challenge: Doors and Passages set by Pixelventures Photo Challenge through Bastet and We Drink Because we are Poets.

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We have been back in Shanghai a week now and back at school for 5 days. I have been working late each night to unpack and set up my classroom, but the other night I was kidnapped asked to go to a book fair in Puxi. It was being held in an old building at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. I love to read and I have quite the collection of books, but it was the building that captured my attention. The books were mostly in Chinese so I passed my time by looking at all the beautiful details on the ceilings and pillars. I would have guessed it was a few hundred years old, but it was newer than that. It was completed in 1955 to show friendship between China and Russia.

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The doors were floor to ceiling and full of iron work, colours and design. The passages from some rooms to other were spectacular with coloured ceilings with inlays and fancy lightening designs. I am so glad I always carry a camera in my purse or I would have missed this fantastic masterpiece.

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Don’t forget you can always participate in these challenges. Follow the link above to find out how, or to see more examples.

Stay tuned….

Categories: Photography, post a week, reading, Tourist in My Own Town, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Masterpiece #2: Ottawa

After rereading Word Press‘s post about a masterpiece I had another idea. Cheri described the masterpiece the Sagrada de Familia a huge, amazing cathedral designed by Antio Gaudi. It is located in Barcelona, Spain and is still under construction over 100 years later. I saw it on TV when I was a teenager and I was impressed and vowed to myself one day I would go there and see if for real. Years later my dream came true. I remember the feeling of coming around a corner and there is stood. It took my breath away. It was truly a masterpiece and better in real life and more than I ever imagined or dreamed it could be. It certainly outlived my expectations. I expected the same reaction when I got to the Great Wall, but I was disappointed that I didn’t have that ‘take my breath away‘ reaction. That is not to say I wasn’t impressed, because I was. When I thought about something that gave me that little intake of breath I thought of this:

3 floors of books and a domed roof

3 floors of books and a domed roof

This is the library inside the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Canada, our nation’s capital. I had never been inside this building before and only made one other visit to Ottawa over 10 years ago. I didn’t have any preconceived notions or ideas of what it would look like, or really that such a thing existed. when we went inside it did take my breath away. Our tour group’s collective intake of breath was immediate. Our tour guide’s response…. “I know…. incredible!” He is still in awe after hundreds of tours. The lighting, design, details… just incredible. A true masterpiece in design.

The details and design amazing!

The details and design amazing!

We were so lucky to be there on a Saturday since tour groups are normally not allowed to take photos. During the week it is a working library and the staff do not want the distractions or constant flash and photos. Can’t say that I blame them.

a close up of some of the detail

it’s all in the details

As a book lover it was the most amazing thing I ever saw. Our guide told us it almost was lost to fire many years ago. A fire broke out inside the Parliament buildings in a near-by room. Luckily a quick thinking individual closed the large iron doors and the library was spared. The beauty, books and so much history would have been lost.

Statue that greets you as you enter

Statue that greets you as you enter

The statue is of a young Queen Victoria. The building was completed in 1876 in a Gothic Revival style. Click here to get more information. The photos certainly do not do this magnificent structure justice!

The domed roof

The domed roof

What has taken your breath away?

Stay tuned….

Categories: Culture, Photography, post a week, reading, Tourist in My Own Town, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Flat Stanley Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m leaving on a Jet Plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again…


Well it is that time again. Flat Stanley is leaving Shanghai and heading to numerous parts around the world. Flat Stanley is a primary school novel and in it he goes to visit a friend in California via the postal system thanks to his convenient ‘flatness’. A fellow Canadian came up with the idea to do the Flat Stanley Project with his students. He took the novel by Jeff Brown and got his kids mailing the little guy to friends and family all over the country and world. It encouraged their reading and got them excited about it. In other adaptions, children take their own personal Flat Stanley and write a journal about his adventures.

World wide Stanley has been to most places in the US and Canada. He also has met the president of the USA and was on American Idol! With my Year 3 class 2 years ago I planned the unit and each student in Year 3 (as well as the other 3 classes in the school and some of our EAL classes) took their own Stanley and wrote about what they did on holiday. It was a great success and it really improved the kid’s writing. We also shared the journals and photos in class, made it into a class book and even did an assembly with him! Last year we repeated the project and I went to Xi’an with him. Other teachers, visiting Xi’an, spotted the “celebrity” and came over to ask about where we were from. You can read about that adventure here.  This year is no exception and in a few hours Flat Stanley, John and I along with another teaching couple from school will be heading to Seoul, South Korea for some more adventures!

This was a last-minute booking since the school just returned our passports Wednesday of this week! Yesterday was spent finishing report cards, which are due right after the holiday. All that work out-of-the-way we are ready for a short get-away and adventure.

Stay tuned for more adventures… with Flat Stanley too!

Update: Someone has added extra links to this post! The only links I have included are for the Flat Stanley Project and my post from last year. If anyone knows how to avoid this or remove the links please comment below. Thanks.

Categories: post a week, reading, teaching overseas, travel | Tags: , , , , , ,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

I love to travel and getting on a plane and packing to go to a new place fills me with excitement and energy. My biggest Journey was going to Europe by myself in my early twenties. For most that is nothing, but for me (and people who know me) found it a big deal… how do you photograph one’s life journey and life changing experiences?

Instead I have settled on a picture of some books… each book takes you on a journey whether it be a travel book (as you plan a real journey), fiction or non fiction… the mind can escape and travel the world through imagination and inspiration of another’s words…

Mind's Journey

Mind's Journey

Categories: love of reading, post a week, reading, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , ,

ABC Award – not just for family anymore

I started a blog with the encouragement from Amy & Mary to write about our unique travel experiences of life here in China. It wassomething I wasn’t sure about, but allowed me to be creative, have an outlet and keep in touch easily with everyone at home. I have religiously blogged each week (85 to date —although I may have missed a few odd weeks here and there). It started to become fun and I aimed for being picked by Word Press as “Freshly Pressed”. A daily honour that goes to a few blogs to be posted on the home page. It increases traffic to your humble musings and would create a sense of accomplishment for being recognised. I haven’t reached that goal yet, but will continue to try.

Yesterday I blogged about my cooking class and soon after I was given a nod from Jennifer for that blog as she picked me as one of her ABCs “The Awesome Blog Contest”. The rules are simple and the idea came from this post . Click on the links to read their posts and learn more. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that someone read my blog and liked it. Someone other than friends and family read my blog and they didn’t even have to! So thank you to Jennifer for taking the time to read my humble words, share them with others and give me some recognition and sense of accomplishment. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read, comment and share with me each week.

So now onto the next steps:

The Rules:

1. Add the ABC logo to your new blog post. (check)
2. ABC about yourself using one word or phrase. (see below and check)
3. Nominate however many blogs you wish. (check)
4. Let the recipient know via a link in their comments. (check)

My ABC’s:

A. Ancient Architecture & Australia
B. Brilliant Barcelona
C. Crazy Canadians – Canadian Travel Bugs
D. Delicious Dumplings
E. Excited & Honoured to be Selected for ABC
F. Frequent Fireworks
G. Great Wall & Gelato
H. Holly – my cat
I. Interesting Italy
J. John, my husband
K. Kindle or not to Kindle?
L. Loves to Travel
M. Mayan Ruins in Mexico
N. Natural Niagara Falls
O. Outside Ontario
P. Phabulous Philippines – Coco Beach
Q. Quick & Quirky Wit
R. Ruins in Rome
S. Sassy & Sensational Shanghai – my new home
T. Teaching & Trailing Spouse
U. Unique travel experiences
V. Vivid & Vivacious Varadero, Cuba
W. Wish to Travel More
X. Xi’an & (e)Xpat abroad
Y. YYZ
Z. Zany Zebras

Now for my nominations…

1.Post about travel in Peru    http://freeatheartblog.com/2012/03/03/cuzco-so-far/

2. Travels in Segovia, Spain   http://happyoncehappytwice.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/segovia-spain-part-1/#comment-82

3. Amazing Pics and series of posts about Angkor Wat, Cambodia     http://leephelpsphoto.com/2012/02/11/the-temples-of-angkor-part-i/

Enjoy and stay tuned for more…

Categories: reading, Uncategorized, unique experiences | Tags: , ,

A Good Read -Part 2

Last week I wrote about my love of books and some good reads. I talked about some favourites from my childhood and recent books I read, but not some others that I really loved over the years. I thought I could mention some of my all time favourites… ones that really stuck out in my mind, ones I have recommended to others, or would (or have) read more than once.

As I write this I hope I don’t forget anything… as I wrote my bucket list of travel places later I thought… oh yea, oh I should have added that too… seems like any list is ever-changing, growing and could include ‘just one more’…

Now to the books… Of course I need to include the Harry Potter series. Reading them was magical, my imagination created some great images. I read the first 4 or so BEFORE the movies came out. I must say I wasn’t too disappointed with the movies. In most cases it lived up to my imagination… even better sometimes. J K Rowling creates amazing images through her words. My visions did change after seeing the movies as now I had those of the people, places and some things in my mind. I would sometimes think… how will they do this in the movie as some things were just so surreal. I kinda wished I could have read all the books before the movie… just reigned in my imagination in some ways.

Recently I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy thanks to a recommendation of one of student’s parents from last year. Very strange and out there… but I was so good and read the book before watching the movie. Books never live up to the movies… although this movie helped me understand some things that I just didn’t get. I am not a usual Sci-Fi reader and being very tired when trying to comprehend is not always easy.

Funny enough book people always say the book is better than the movie. But is that ALWAYS the case? Whenever I start a book I often follow it through. If it is not good then I think… it will get better, which doens’t always happen. I was reading Wicked, the story of the Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz. I loved the movie and Oz books and thought I would like this book. The show is always sold out whenever it comes to Toronto and I have tried to see it a few times… it must be awesome! Well I tried, really tried to get into that book. I was not interested… I found it strange, some things unnecessary and just horrible. Finally I put it down. It took me months to get through a few pages and I am glad I have set it aside. Since I have read many great books and have flown through them. I am not the only one. A college from work also said she couldn’t get though the book, but loved the play. Hmm play/movie better than the book. That must be a first. Not since Grade 13 English and dreading reading Heart of Darkness have I despised a book so much. At least now I had a choice and put it down.

Now back to some great reads… Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap… good mystery and longest running play. When I was in the UK in 2001 I went to see the play. Awesome! Her 10 Little Indians (AKA And Then There Were None)  and Orient Express are also great who dunnits that keep you guessing and may surprise you. A teacher in highschool hated Agatha Christie, so I avoided her books for many years. A friend loaned me Orient Express and for the next 5 or more years that is all I read. Funny how we listen to opinions; I would have missed out on so many great stories if it not for another friend’s encouragement to read just one.

Twilight Series… it was OK. I like the author’s back story more… just a regular person had a dream and it turned into a phenomenon.

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. It is more highschool and about Highschool girls, but reminded me of the Judy Blume Books I loved to read as a kid. The author really understood and showed how teen girls felt and what they can be going through.

Bridget Jones. Just before the movie came out Liza recommended this book. I loved it. I could totally relate! Of course she is in more trouble than I, and crazier, but that is what made it more fun. Last year the big read was Eat, Pray, Love… some people didn’t like it and found it whiney. Again it was something I could relate to… as her journey took her away from home and all that is familiar. Being in a new country and everything different, unfamiliar and so far away made me appreciate my journey even more.

Dan Brown is great too… the Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code. They are action packed and once you get going you don’t want to stop. I love books that you can’t wait to find out what is next, but hate when they end.

My school favourites are the Junie B. Jones Series… I love her silly antics and doing the voices when I read. We read them at snack time and the kids ask me to read everyday. I have been reading them for years and I haven’t met a kid or class yet that doesn’t like them. I also like Chester and Scaredy Squirrel books (picture books)- thanks Marcy. The kids laugh and last year this one boy laughed SO hard it had us all in stitches. It was the best laugh ever… something just struck him as funny and he didn’t hold back. We also like Flat Stanley and we have done it as a unit in class, so we have done the travel journals with him… This year they all love the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. We have read a bunch of those too.

A cool series based on historical fiction, one about the war of 1812 (Root Cellar) and another that took place in Toronto (Double Spell) in an old house, was a cool find through Scholastic many years ago. I think I was 11 or 12 and I still recall that series. How cool is that? A book that you remember years later. It’s like a good friend, a fond memory or a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer… it makes you smile and feel good inside. To have the ability to write and reach out and touch other people is such a gift. I was just watching an Ellen and Dianne Keaton was promoting a book she published using her mother’s journals. Her mother wrote journals that were small works of art with drawings, stories of events and photographs… she was saying what a gift they were and how interesting -how rare to write back then. She went on to say how today many of us write more than ever before… I agree; whether it a blog, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter… many of our thoughts are shared and expressed in print. No longer are they lost in oral conversation, but can be accessed again and again… for good or for bad.

OH…So many books… I am sure I have more favourites that I will remember once I hit the ‘publish’ button. My final thought… I just love to read and getting into a book that is so good it can transport you to another time, place and life.

Stay Tuned for more next time… lots of ideas to come.

Categories: love of reading, reading | Tags: , ,