Posts Tagged With: books

My Happy Place -WP Photo Challenge

Last week the theme for WP was “Happy Place. I had an idea right away, but due to travelling home for a few days I hadn’t the chance to post until now. Even though a new theme has been posted I couldn’t let My Happy Place go.

The question was where do you go to unwind, escape and get away from it all? I couldn’t pick just one so I have included a few of my happy places below.

  1. The sky…

In Shanghai we didn’t get clear blue skies often, but when we did I would stare at the clouds and blue sky. Evenings I loved to take in the colourful sunsets with the Shanghai skyline silhouetted.Β  Back home I enjoy the clear skies, fluffy clouds and colourful sunsets too. Even though they are a regular occurrence I never tire of them.The other night a colourful and unusual cloud pattern danced across the sky. I couldn’t resist.

Patterns and sunsets in the sky

Patterns and sunsets in the sky

2. The beach…

The warm sun and sand beneath my feet with the soft surf relaxing every cell in my body…ahhhh. Need I say more? As a child we went to the Atlantic Ocean and walking on the sand looking for shells or throwing stones into the surf was fun. As an adult I have been lucky enough to visit beaches all over the world. The best was the little cabins we stayed in the Philippines where the sound of the waves lulled me to sleep. The powdery beaches in Cuba are phenomenal as well. Whenever stressed I enjoy looking at a beach pic on my computer desk top.

The waves, soft sands and warm sun

The waves, soft sands and warm sun

3. The mountains…

Since I have been out in Calgary the mountains are a short drive away. The fresh air and smell of pine is so relaxing. The view of the snow capped mountains from the city are spectacular, but up close even better. The surreal blue of Lake Louise is something to see.

The mountains, blue lakes and smell of pine.

The mountains, blue lakes and smell of pine.

4. Books…

Escape with a good book

Escape with a good book

The absolute best is a book. After a long day it is nice to curl up with a book to help you de-stress and fall asleep. A good book is great to lose yourself in and shut off the busy day.


What is your happy place?


Categories: Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.


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.


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.


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: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape

Escape… in a busy hectic job and with demanding schedule and chattering children all day how do I escape and turn off?

By reading a good book. Being transported into someone else’s words and world helps me forget about the daily stresses and escape for a short time. Currently I am reading Anne of Green Gables, a Canadian classic on my iPad.


Coffee… lazy weekend mornings on our balcony with a view of an amazing city is a good way to escape, relax, chat and dream about our future endeavors. Plans are made, shared and dreams are born over good coffee and conversation. Other times just the quiet of the city as it is coming awake, the sun rising and the cool breezes in the trees regenerate the soul and get me ready for a busy day ahead.


My favourite escape is the beach. The sound of the waves, warm breezes and in my sight the endless vision of turquoise blue is what I day-dream about on cold damp days and in hectic times. Knowing there is no schedule, place to be or endless paper work to catch up on allows me to truly relax and just be. The beach always is my ideal place to escape.

How do you like to escape? Share your ideas in the comment section below, or post your own! See Word Press for more examples, ideas and details.

Stay tuned… and don’t forget to be a “tourist in your own town”. Link back to my post or see it here.

Categories: Photography, post a week, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Image of Life: My Dream Day

Oh my dream day… I could make a list of ideals! I guess it would have to depend on my mood, energy level and what has been going on previously. Sometimes it can be as simple as just having the feeling of accomplishment and doing everything you set out to do that day and then having some time left over to relax. Island Traveller has asked this question for this week’sΒ  photo challenge.

So in no particular order here is my Top 10 list of Perfect Days…

Sun, Surf & Sand – Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

1. I love to have a quiet day where I can sit on the balcony and enjoy a coffee and feel the cool comfortable breezes… Nothing to rush and do, just pure leisure.

2. Spending time with friends and family. Playing with my nephews and listening to them and their funny take on life.

3. Spending the day on the beach. Listening to the waves and feeling the sun warm my skin.

4. Hanging out with my husband. With a busy work schedule it is good to hang out, go out for coffee or even do the daily mundane chores together.

5. Read… I used to enjoy spending a rainy day reading a good book cuddled up on the couch. I also love to browse book stores; old or new… in search of another great read.

6. Plan a vacation… the anticipation and excitement of going somewhere new.

7. Exploring a new place or city… I love to travel and being exhausted from traipsing around is worth it to make every minute count and see and do all you can in a place you may never get to see again.

8. Watch a good movie… just a mindless task to totally relax.

9. Go to the spa… it is an affordable luxury here and to feel pampered is nice something to do for yourself sometimes. Although I really miss my visits to the spa with my friend back home. Once or twice a year we would splurge and go together. It was our gifts to each other.

10. Watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset… need I say more?

What is your ideal day?

Check out Island Traveler’s page to see more or join in the challenge.

Stay tuned for more…

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

Kreativ Blogger Award

YIPEE! I am over the Super Moon… I was passed along another award earlier this week. It has been a busy with work and a computer course for most of my Saturday so this is the first chance I have had to post and nominate other bloggers πŸ™‚

Well not really my first chance because as I was about to do this earlier, but instead I ended up writing about Vietnam. But in my defence the thoughts just flowed and before I realised I had typed my final installment of our Vietnam adventures… so now that I have time to reflect and nominate let’s explore this new award πŸ™‚

The rules of this award are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Pass the award to 7 nominees


To Dave & Aly over at “the thought palette” for their nomination. I am truly honoured. I have been blogging almost 2 years and in the last 2 months things have exploded! I went from a few hits a week to double digits a day not to mention followers, likes and loads of comments all due to awards and encouragement from my new online friends. I appreciate your help in answering my questions, your follow and now nomination πŸ™‚ I just don’t have the words to express thank you enough… so to steal from a speech I gave last year… hopefully one of these is enough… Merci, Grazie, Gracias, Xie Xie, Danke Schon and Muito Obrigado.

Here are my nominations:

1. Jennifer Avventura at My Sardinian Life – Jennifer nominated me twice before (my first 2 awards ever) and has inspired my writing and helped me grow as a blogger. She is also Canadian Eh… and an expat. She writes about her adventures in Sardinia, Italy. Check it out!

2. Imogen Shepard at It’s a Strange Life – I checked out this blog through the Weekly Photo Challenges and when I saw her pic of her cat with her hamster I was hooked! I had taken a similar shot years ago of Holly (cat) & Critter (hamster). Her kind words about Holly has helped my sadness, so from one cat lover to another…

3. Island Traveller – the writing is so poetic and romantic. Each blog helps you see the good in things and remind you about the simple things in life. Reading his words are inspiring and heals the soul. Island traveller also takes part in the photo challenges and shares some amazing shots.

3. Wanderlust – I did nominate this blog last time, but I enjoy reading this blog and her great outlook on life was worth another mention. Check out her beautiful photos, many of flowers right in her yard! Wanderlust has had a tough week so I hope this brightens her day and doesn’t get lost in a million emails πŸ˜‰

4. The Great Escape – Amazing pictures and talk about travel. Somehow another Canadian… wait is there a pattern emerging here? We Canadians are like magnets we attract each other no matter where we are!

5. Happiest Baby in the World – I found this blog when it was Freshly Pressed a few weeks back. They are neighbours here and at home (US originally and also Expats here in China). They are living more inland China and posted about all the great things that we experience here in China. I could totally relate!

6. Til We have Faces – A few months back Lee posted the most AMAZING shots on Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It is a place we want to go and seeing the stunning images made us want to go even more. More recent posts are about living in South Korea.

7. Jo Bryant –Chronicles of Illusions Through the photo challenge I stumbled upon this blog… Lovely photos and words…

8. Third Eye Mom – who loves to travel maybe even more than me!

OK I know there are more than 7, but last time I was supposed to nominate 12 or 14 and I could not think of enough, so I am bending the rules a little ;). Since the last award I have been reading more blogs and following some great people. Check them out!

Share 7 things about myself

1. I am long winded… and I like to talk πŸ˜‰ I bet you didn’t know that one.

2. I am sarcastic and have an odd sense of humour… I even call my dad from China just to tell him a good joke! But he loves them as much as me!!!

3. I love to travel, take pictures and scrapbook… I have been lucky to find a husband who also likes to get out and explore.

4. I have read a huge number of books this year (I lost count). When I was younger I would get a stack from the library and before they were due I’d go back and get another stack… I missed that. Now I don’t have the time to read that many these days but I’m trying. Does reading blogs count?

5. I watch way too much TV…Β  Being in China I download some shows from home, but when the internet is slow it is hard to keep up 😦 it is a source of huge frustration here and something at home we took for granted.

6. I love the sun and when it is shining I seem to come alive πŸ˜‰

7. I love chocolate… my husband thinks I love it even more than him πŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading, following and liking πŸ™‚ I am truly honoured with my new-found friends and old ones who have been along for the ride. Check out these great bloggers they are worth it! Now my job is done and nominees tag your it!

Stay tuned… next time back to life in China, or maybe a photo challenge if WP posts a new one.

Categories: love of reading, Photography, post a week, teaching overseas, Uncategorized | 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: , , , ,

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)Β  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: , ,

A Good Read

The travel list seemed to be quite popular and I had a lot of responses, so I thought maybe I would continue with another similar format post about books. Sometimes it is hard to find a good book, or know what to pick in a sea of titles. Maybe this will help you discover a new book to read. We can share and expand our reading lists.

My scaled down book shelf in China

I love to read, but it was not always the case. My parents regularly bought us books and read to us every night, but I was not a reader. I loved books, the pictures and stories where I could imagine the stories and they would come to life. Slowly I began to read on my own and the love of books took on a new form. I remember weekends going to the library and finding something to take home and read. I loved sitting in the quiet rows with the shelves of books towering above me. The smell and sounds of only pages turning, or the soft murmured whispers was very peaceful. I would return home with a small stack of books that I would pile beside my bed. Each night I would read and hopefully before the due date I was ready to return to the library and get a fresh batch of books.

Often my dad would come home from his shift work and my light would be on. Sometimes I would be asleep with a book in my hand, but occasionally I would still be awake and reading. I would be so interested in the story that I lost track of time. What a great feeling to get so caught up in a book that you lose track of time and you become lost in the pages.

Some of my favourites as a kid was the Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown series. Trying to solve the mysteries and be as clever as the main characters. A friend had me read some of the Wizard of Oz. I loved the movie, but who knew there were other books in the series? I remember the two of us as recess reading quickly to finish our books before library time, so we could get the next book. Very young I loved fairy tales and the whole idea of Happily Ever After…

Getting book orders in school was like Christmas. Our excitement when we came in from recess and the little paper copies were on our desks was the highlight of any day. Everyone would quickly look through the thin paper pages and make a list of what we hoped our parents would buy. When the orders came in and the book, or if we were lucky a little pile of books, sat on our desks we couldn’t wait until home time to read them. The book Isle of the Blue Dolphins was one such purchase when I was about 10. It quickly became one of my favourites and I read that book over and over again.

In Canada I had a small library. I have numerous novels and picture books for the students I teach. I love getting new stories and books and sharing with them. A small portion of those books have made it to China and I share with my students here. One thing about international students, they are big readers. We try to squeeze in reading in our busy schedule as much as possible. I started reading to the class at snack time and now they ask for me to read everyday. It is a disappointment when we are short on time. I display a picture of each book we have read and last year I filled 2 rows on a hanging clothesline. My class this year’s goal is to fill a third line.

I also have a library of books for myself. My dream one day is to have a built-in book-case, the length of a wall, filled with books from floor to ceiling. I love the look of books. For this reason I was against the new devices that allow you to download and read books electronically. The smell, feel, weight and look of books would be lost on a computer screen. After filling a suitcase with books this summer to read throughout this school year I am starting to think it may make life easier, or at least lighter.

OK now to the list… Some of my recent reads include:

Agatha Christie – Destination Unknown. Not her typical style and it was also published under a different title and author. It is about a woman who takes on a dead woman’s identity to help the police track a hidden operative.

Rosamund Pilcher – Shell Seekers. Each chapter is written about once person and their thoughts, experiences or perspectives. Most people are connected by family. It goes back in time in places, during world war ll. It was something different from what I usually read, but it was interesting. Thanks to Mary for suggesting it.

Lillian JacksonΒ  Braun – The Cat Who… This is a mystery series and I read 2 of the books, so far. Not as great as Agatha Christie, but still interesting.

Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – the title and cover intrigued me. Sometimes the best books ‘call’ to you this way πŸ™‚ It was about a young autistic boy who finds his neighbour’s dog dead. The story is about him trying to find out what happened. Along the way it explores his life and how people react to him. The point of view and understanding of someone with autism was really well done.

Lisa See -Shanghai Girls. I am not finished this book yet, but so far I am finding it really interesting. It is historical fiction when the second world war was about to begin and what 2 sisters went through to escape. There is a few bits that are pretty graphic, so I skipped over them.

So what are you reading? Any good suggestions?

Stay tuned for more

Categories: Culture | Tags: , ,