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Spring Festival Fun From Toronto

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Looking at the gorgeous weather of 10 degrees in February, it looks like Groundhog -Wiarton Willie was right and spring is just around the corner. After forceful skiing on the roads to building muscle shoveling the snow, it’s almost time to enjoy the Spring time!

With little time that we have spent in Toronto, we have always made sure to take advantage of the warmer weather in Spring. Here are some of the places we have had fun during spring:

Ottawa’s Tulips Festival: Driving to Ottawa during the Spring time is by far the best outing we have had during Spring. Though the Tulips are not really equivalent to what it looks like in Netherlands or in Skagit Valley in Washington, it is still one of the best we have. Hiring bicycles and going around the Rideau Canal and exploring the beauty of the park makes it all worth it being there.

Festival time this year: 12th May to 22nd May, 2017

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It looks so inviting:)

 

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Tulip beds!

 

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Beautiful Spring Colours of Nature!

Toronto High Park Cherry Blossom Festival: No need to head to Japan (though that’s on my list to visit soon) to see the Cherry Blossoms, they were kind enough to give a few samplings to Canada and you can see the beauty blossom in High Park mostly during April (depending on the weather). The flowers last only for a week so don’t miss out, here is a link where you can keep a watch on when the flowers are in full bloom.

Link: www.highparktoronto.com/cherry-trees-2017.php

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Cherry blossom in full bloom!

 

Kite Flying Festival: As kids, we have made our own kites and flied it from our roof top but it’s not the same everywhere, Toronto hosts Kite Festival during Spring and trust me it just takes you back to your childhood. If you fancy flying kites on a beach or in a conservation parks, there are quite a few festivals which takes place during April and May, here are a few links where you can pick which one to go for –

www.kitefestcanada.com

www.Totonto.com/events/four-winds-kite-festival/

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High up it goes!

Easter Egg hunt in Blue Mountains: Good Friday long weekend gets better mostly because of the egg hunt that happens pretty much everywhere, but it gets even better when you are not confined to a space and expected to run around the Village in Blue Mountain hunting for the easter eggs. Its not just for kids they also have some amazing rides for adults and you can even try skiing (if it’s not too warm for the snow to have melted), as Blue mountain is mostly famous as a skiing destination from Toronto.

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Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster in Blue Mountain!

Maple Syrup Festival: If you are in Canada, you better like Maple Syrup. Pouring it over on pan cakes or just having them as a maple syrup candy, it’s a treat to our taste buds. There are a lot of farms hosting maple syrup festival combined with wagon rides and fun activities. Here is a link to all the festivals:

www.400eleven.com/touring/maple-syrup-festivals

Happy Spring Time and do let me know your favourite spring time activity!

 

My Iceland Adventures

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I have always joked with friends and cousins, lets runaway to some unknown place, every now and then when I was exhausted with mundane work, but this time I told myself and I did. Well, doesn’t that say I should have just told myself this much earlier and would have visited many more places and made more memories to share? Nevertheless, when I finally did, I came back with tons of experience, some that I consider adventurous for my standard 😉

  1. Glacier Hike: Not sure if I was over confident after having learnt ice skating that I booked myself on a Glacier hike tour, without giving it a much thought. In my Rockies trip, we did a Glacier tour where this humongous bus took us all the way up to the glacier and all we had to do is get down from the bus and pose for the pictures and get back. Well, that’s exactly what I expected would happen and thought it just has a fancy name. But alas, I was wrong and realized its some serious stuff when I saw all those gears that we had to wear and carry with us to the starting point of the hike. It got even more exciting (not so), when I saw this small figure (read people, that’s how they looked from distance) on the glacier and asked the guide if that’s where we were going and pat came the answer “Beyond that, in fact”. It was about 3 hours hike, Oh boy! How I loved every moment of it. From peeping into a 30 feet hole to breathtaking views to naturally carved ice, it was all worth it.img_5897img_5912img_5905img_5903
  2. Exploring the Ice Cave: Going on a Glacier hike was not enough that I wanted to see Ice Caves as well, this was also one of the reason that I wanted to go to Iceland in winter. The beautiful pictures that I had seen was reason enough for me to book a tour and it was exactly how I had imagined it to be.                                                             The walk was even more rigorous than the glacier hike as we had to climb the glacier where there were no defined path or manmade steps. There are too many ice holes which are not too obvious if you are not familiar with the glacier or don’t follow instructions. But, you will be amazed with the beauty of nature and gods creation.
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    Walk starts!
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    A that’s the cave!

     

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    Steps to get inside the cave!

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    Inside the Ice Cave!
  3. Snorkeling between Tectonic plates: This was just not on my travel plan for sure. After I had planned my Iceland trip, I see a friend’s FB post that she is in Iceland. I was thrilled and was following closely the places that she was visiting. Out of 5 days, I had 4 days all booked with my plans and was left with just one day and when I was thinking if I should go whale watching or just explore the museums, I see this beautiful snorkeling pictures from a friend who was touring Iceland. That was the deciding point but I was going in winter and she was there in Fall but I dint want to back-off so I started reading reviews and  most of the people said even though it was one of the best experiences, cold can be very nasty and your body would turn blue and all the horrifying experiences but there was one post which said – “cold is not that bad and its a experience of lifetime, if you get a chance, do it”. Well, there was no looking back and I went ahead and booked my tour.                                                                                                                                             Everybody in my group were very cold, since they all had come from warmer places, as Canada is much more colder than Iceland (Yes, that’s true), I dint feel the cold much and no, my body did not turn blue or my hands go numb for hours. You are given a body suit and a dry suit, so you have 2 layers apart from your clothing. When you give your clothes size, just make sure to give the right size, carry 2 pairs of thick socks and cover your mouth with the head gear until you go into the water, then you are all good. The dive is for about 40min but mostly people get out in about 30min.

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    That’s me 🙂
  4. Staying in a Hostel: I call this adventure since I have never stayed in a girls hostel leave alone mixed nor have I shared room with my own siblings. There is always something that goes wrong in your planning invariably and for me it was booking a mixed hostel. I just assumed that the hostels are generally separate for men and women and booked a hostel for 3 days of my stay. Surprise hits me when I enter the hostel room and see a big guy sleeping middle of the day and I go back to the desk asking if it was a mistake and they say “No, you are booked in mixed room”. Not only had I dared to share room and bathroom (I don’t share bathroom even with my husband) with the species from Venus but also with the species from Mars. Rooms were all booked that I could not even change, well what do you do for next 3 nights? You become friends with them, spend sleepless nights even though people were so very nice and keep account of who came at what time and who has checked out early, who snores the loudest and where did that nasty loud noise came from, eeeks.

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    My first ever hostel experience!

Each one of these experiences has thought me something, I need to get fit (yes, for the first three activities, you need to be physically fit and for the last one mentally unfit :)) , double check every booking and go with your gut feeling, when you want to try something new.

Get Adventurous, It’s Fun!

 

A Weekend in Toronto

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Toronto is a very small City and it doesn’t need too many days to go around but there are a lot of places to visit on a day trips keeping Toronto as a base, which I would save it for another article.

My top things to do in Toronto, assuming you are visiting the city just for couple of days as a tourist (I would say 3 to 4) or visiting on work and have only weekends in hand:

CN Tower: Canadian National Tower or Canada’s National Tower is the 3rd tallest tower in the world. So, if you are visiting Toronto, you should go up the tower to see the city from 1122 feet high.

What to expect:

  • Glass Floor and Outdoor Observation terrace located at 1122 feet high;
  • Indoor Observation terrace at 1135 feet high;
  • The Horizons Café and 360 revolving restaurant, I do not like the food much but you should go just for the experience. Also, if you dine in the restaurant, the admission to observation center is complimentary;
  • If you are feeling adventurous, then there is “Edge Walk” to add to your crazy adventure list. Check it out http://www.edgewalkcntower.ca/;
  • Magnificent structure itself from outside, you don’t have to spend a penny to take selfies with the tower.

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 Ripley’s Aquarium: Aquarium is right next to CN Tower, so if you are planning to visit the tower, you can include the Aquarium as well in your itinerary for the day. It is definitely, one of the best Aquariums that I have been. The aquarium displays about 13, 500 exotic species.

Distillery District: Distillery district is a National Historic site in Toronto. It has some unique boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, brewery, jewelry shops and art gallery. Its unique since it does not have any of the regular chains and all the shops are individually owned.

It’s mostly famous for its Christmas market during the winter time apart from all the amazing shops it houses. This is definitely one of my favorite place to take my guest.

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Harbourfront: Toronto Harbourfront is one of the most happening places in Toronto come winter or summer. The place is always buzzing with lot of activities throughout the year. Taking a boat tour from here would give a fabulous view of the Toronto Skyline. Also, you can take a boat to the Centre Island from here which is again another tourist location.

Check out www.harbourfrontcentre.com for the latest event details.

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Nathan Philips Square: Apart from housing the large illuminated Toronto Sign which is every tourist desire for clicking picture, it also has skating rink during winter and various events like Cavalcade of Lights Festival (lighting of official Christmas tree), concerts, exhibits and annual New Year’s Eve party. If you are in Toronto and can bare all the crowd, this is the place to be during the New Year time.

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All of these places are located in Toronto Downtown. If you buy a City Pass, most of these attractions are included and you would save up a lot of money. Other places which you can be visited are Casa Loma (castle), Bata Shoe Museum, Royal Ontario Museum and some amazing galleries around downtown area.

Interesting Facts and Stories about Iceland

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Iceland was full of surprises and I heard a lot of fascinating stories, here are some facts and some stories, which stood out for me:

  • Iceland was supposed to be called Greenland and vice-a-versa and some say it was a honest mistake and some other say they wanted to dissuade tourist to protect the country.
  • Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland and the only city of the country, rest are all towns and villages.
  • Its very common to leave a child in their pram unattended outside the house, restaurants or shops, so don’t call the cops if you see one 🙂
  • Two third of the Iceland population lives in Reykjavik.img_5758
  • Fish export constituted the major economy for Iceland, until Tourism took over just after the 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (something good came out of that other than just disrupting the air traffic for days together).
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This is where the Volcano had erupted in 2010
  • Iceland does not have an active Military.
  • Iceland presidential office looks like any other normal office without any guards outside. (Wonder what would have happened to Mr. Trump only if he had to sit like this ;)).
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Presidents Office
  • The animals in Iceland are of just one type of breed and there are no deadly animals in Iceland.
  • Icelanders get offended if you call the Icelandic horse a pony, though they look like one 😉
  • Icelandic Horse is unique, since it’s the only horse in the world which can walk in 5 different ways and that makes it the fastest running horse than any other type of horse.img_6409
  • Transportation in Iceland is only through air, water and road, there are no trains in Iceland because of the terrain.img_6422
  • Iceland has so many hot springs that they are generally used for cooking eggs, boiling potato and the sand near hot spring is so hot that local burry the bread deep in the sand and it will be cooked within an hours’ time.( so well use of natural resources)

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    Bread was hidden here and stone was a marker to find the vessel
  • Have you ever dreamt of moving around your house closer to your best friend’s house or office? Well, go to Iceland and you could do just that. Some of the old houses in Iceland are portable since it’s built out of timber though I could not find any reference regarding this anywhere.
  • You don’t need to carry cash if you are visiting Iceland, since 98% of transactions can be done using the credit card, even if you are buying something which is worth just a dollar.
  • Water and Internet is free and available anywhere in the country. I was always well connected and even could video chat with my family from most of the tourist spot, only thing is I would wake them up at odd hours to show an active geyser or a floating glacier 😛IMG_5973.JPG
  • When naming a new born, the selected name should be approved by the “Icelandic Naming Committee”  to make sure the names are not controversial and kids don’t get bullied in schools. (may be they should also consider having some simple and pronounceable names).
  • There are very few trees in Iceland and the ones which are there are very short.

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    That’s how tall the trees are!

 

When In Bengaluru (Bangalore)

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The moment we get back from our home town, we think of all the good things that we miss back home. It’s that feeling, which is making me write this article about my home town, Bengaluru(Bangalore). Having been born and brought up in South Bengaluru, I have seen the city transform into the Silicon city of India. Though, the land scape has changed, population has tripled, traffic has become unbearable, there are things which has remained the same. Only a local can tell you what one should try and explore in the city, which you might not find in other cities/states and is unique to Bengaluru (or Karnataka).

Apart from the familiarity of the language, roads, the noise and the honks, here are my top things, that I miss the most and you should surely explore “When in Bengaluru”.

Temples of Bengaluru: If not for religious purpose, visit some of the old temples of Bengaluru to admire the architectural wonder and to explore the history it beholds.

Big Bull(Nandi) Temple, Dodda Ganesha Temple, Ram and Hanuman Temple, Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple (Gavipuram Cave Temple) in South Bengaluru and Someshwara Temple in Central Bengaluru are some of my favorite temples.

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Big Bull(Nandi) temple dates back to 1537 during Vijayanagara empire, if you visiting during the annual fair “Kadalekaayi Parishe” (groundnut festival), it’s an added treat to the eyes. It’s also one of the biggest Bull statue in the world. In the same vicinity is the Dodda Ganesha Temple. It is believed that both the idols are emerged out of a huge monolithic rock.

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Gavi (cave) Gangadhareshwara temple dates back to 16th century. The temple is built in natural cave and has a couple of tunnels which has been rumored that it leads to Varanasi and other religious places. As kids, we have tried to sneak into those tunnels, only to have chickened out every time.

Food: I am not much of a foodie but when in Bengaluru, I swear by street food. Some of the local eatery that I definitely visit are:

Karnataka Bhel House: Of all the things, I miss Masala Puri (spicy savory) the most. The first thing I do as soon as I am in Bengaluru is to visit my regular chaat guy in South Bengaluru. Other awesome chaat places can be found in Jayanagar shopping Complex, Banashankari complex, Sahakarnagar market street and Gullu’s chaat near Kumara Park, to name a few.

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Masala Puri!

 

VV Puram Food Street: Visit the food street to savor the mouthwatering yummalicious Bengaluru delicacies Holige/Obattu (sweet), churmuri, gulkan (made out of rose petals) with banana and Ice cream, roasted corn, raw mango masala, chilly bhajji and the list goes on.

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VV Puram Food Street on a weekday, weekends you will not even have place to stand.

Visit the most popular joints like Vidyarthibhavan (for dosa) in Gandhibazaar, CTR in Malleshwaram, Brahmins Café in Shankarpuram (do try the idly here), MTR for south Indian thali and any local Darshinis for local foods like Idly, Dosas and chow-chow bath (try to find out what is chow-chow bath).

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Other than South Indian styled coffee in any Darshini’s, Grab a coffee in our very own local coffee joint “Café Coffee Day”. I have spent most of my Post-graduation days in these outlets 😉

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Corner house for Ice creams, my all-time favorite is “Death By Chocolate”, “Hot Chocolate Fudge” and Litchi with Ice Cream.

Transport: For sure, the fastest mode of transport in Bengaluru has to be Auto Rikshaws. Though, they look a little scary the way they drive  and not recommended for longer journey, it’s definitely worth taking a ride, at least once. Auto Rickshaw’s are found in most of South-Indian states.

Shopping: If you are in Bengaluru during the festival season, you should experience the hustle bustle of the city, since I am from south of Bengaluru, I would be partial towards Gandhi Bazar. Other places would be “Malleshwaram” and “Jayanagar” markets.

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My most favorite place to shop otherwise is Commercial Street, there is nothing like street shopping and bargaining, which we Indians love the most. It doesn’t feel satisfying, if you don’t bargain even if its for Rupees 5 😀

As I come to end of my article, I also realize I am a obsessive South-Bengaluru fan and I swear by the place, though Bengaluru as such is a beautiful city and you would find something unique at every corner of the city.

Oops! I almost forgot, I love and miss South Indian wedding food (madhuve mane oota), if you are not there for a wedding then just gate crash into one 😛

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park – Visual Tour

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Dinosaur Provincial Park near Calgary in Alberta is a UNESCO World heritage Centre. It has the highest concentration of fossils in the world. Their fossil bed and vast badlands makes it one of the must visit tourist place. About 40 dinosaur species have been discovered at the park. You don’t find any eggs here as the dinosaur migrated to different place to lay eggs as the climate was not suitable. You can go on a fossil safari, hiking the Badlands  and overnight Camping. If this doesn’t tempt you to take a trip to the park, go through the pictures gallery:

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Drive to the park from Calgary where the road looks like a never ending destination is something one should experience.

Farms on the way to the park!

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Who wouldn’t wan to witness once the land of magnificent dinosaur yourself!
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View from the entrance!
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Vast badlands, we were just awe struck!
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My little monkey hiking the badlands!
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My cheeky monkey in pink and me in black, after a difficult hike!

 

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Delight for the photographers!
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Did you say pose?
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Ever ready!

Expect the unexpected on fossil safari!

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We found a tooth as well!
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Fossil which was buried under the badlands can be seen here as the sand gets eroded!

Tempting enough? Read my blog on the Canadian Rockies for more information.

 

 

 

Unleashing the Inner Fear

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Resolution, What Resolution? That was my attitude towards making a resolution! Though, I have made numerous list, I have very diligently stuck to the saying “Resolutions are meant to be broken” (I also went by “Resolutions are not meant to be made at all” for the longest time).

But suddenly, I have developed interest in learning new things and challenging my fears. I should have stopped right there, but “No”! I made a “To Do” list for the year as well, to fulfill those interest. Want to know more? Read on, how I dig my own grave and crawled out of it.

Let me tell you, though I carry a look which sends a message “Don’t mess with me” (yes, I know, my friends have made sure to let me know what the look on my face convey), I am scared of everything – Water, Height and even going out of my comfort zone and try something new. Each one of these have mocked me for the longest time but, this year has been my year to mock right back at it. Here are my victims of mockery:

Fear of Water: Early this year, we visited a waterfront cottage with friends. There was canoe, kayaks, lake and my friend’s right in middle of the lake having fun, boating and fishing. Even my little dare devil was in the middle of the lake fishing with her dad. Here, I was watching them have fun and her words playing in my mind “Don’t worry mamma, just come”. Next thing I notice is, I have pulled out a kayak and sailing towards them. Trust me, I was fine till my husband turned around and exclaimed “Wow! Chandini is here”, that’s when it sunk in what I had actually done. I was petrified as my kayak bumped into my friend’s boat (sadly, I couldn’t even hide my fear, my face said it all). As I came back to my senses, my over imaginary mind starts telling me, all the worst things that could happen just to me at that very moment. But surprisingly, I was also having fun being there and to have achieved something that I never imagined, I would ever do! Btw, I did go back again the next day too and still alive. I dint stop there, I went ahead and learnt swimming to overcome my fear of water.

Fear of Height: When it comes to planning, I do it with great dedication but taking part in my own plan is when, I chicken out. It’s been no exception this year too, it’s not one but we planned two theme parks this year for my dismay (not sure what was I thinking). Disney and Hershey’s theme park are not only exciting and fun to just be there but they also have the most deadly rides. Both the parks we visited was for my daughter and my birthdays. So, there was only emotional blackmailing which was played to make me take those dreadful rides. The control freak that I am, I don’t enjoy the rides when I can’t control it, but for a change, I have gone on maximum rides this year compared to what I have done in my whole life and had fun too. Though, I embarrassed my family with my shrill screams and had to be told to stop screaming, as the ride had come to a halt long back (I literally covered my face every time I walked out of a ride and also, tried putting the blame on my daughter. Nah, it dint work).

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That’s the ride which tested my screaming capacity

Fear of attempting anything new: Eating Ice cream is fun, playing in snow is fun but standing on an ice???? Nooooooooooo!

Not sure, if I was trying to give the ultimate ice queen Elsa a competition just to get some brownie points from my daughter or if I was jealous that Elsa gets too much attention from my daughter, that I ended up enrolling myself for “Ice Skating”. After a numerous failed attempt to even walk (forget skating), I was just praying that I shouldn’t break any bones in my body, that I had to sit and count it myself. Then, I see my little diva, not just walking but running and waving at me every time she passes by and giving me a thumbs up! Trust me, you don’t mind being a failure in front of your parents but not your kids. That’s when the “Mother Hormones” kicked in and I was jiving (nah! Just exaggerating) but I did learn to glide and sculling. Now I can call myself a “Wannabe Ice Queen”.

Getting high on achieving something is better than getting high on wine (Oh, yes! I can get high on wine). It’s never too late to learn anything new or to self-indulge (especially, if you have kids, I know the guilt trip that moms go through). Every one of us have that one thing, which we always wanted to learn but, never found time or got an opportunity to do. May be in the New Year? Do try and make it happen. Share you stories, you never know whom you might be inspiring and encouraging to take that one little step in fulfilling their dream.

Learning and experimenting should never stop or making that secret “To Do” list!