Sunday, February 19, 2017

Toronto Light Festival

It's hard to get people to get out of their houses in our cold Canadian winter, even if the area to head out to is as fashionable as the Distillery District. So when I learned of the Toronto Light Festival, happening over there, I just waited for the right evening to head down there. Tonight the temperature was a balmy 12 C in the evening (very unlike our usual February weather!) so we decided to check it out.

The Distillery District is often the choice for bridal photo shoots and couple engagement pictures. It has an old work charm, with brick buildings and trendy shops and cafes.

The light festival has on their website one simple statement.

Winter sucks, and we simply want to make winter not suck so much. And oh, we really like pretty lights.

And I have to say, they got it right. The exhibits were bright, spirited and fun. And it was crowded (it was a nice evening) and everyone was taking pictures (and selfies) with all the cool exhibits.

My favourite was the ring of lights. It took some positioning (and practicing my crowd navigating skills I picked up in India) to get myself into the right spot to take the pictures I wanted.

Another crowd favourite were the tiger exhibits. I couldn't take every shot here that I wanted as it was simply too busy and our children decided they had enough and wanted to go home.

There were just white lights hidden underneath paper sheets (of different colours) held on a wire-frame structure. I know these were paper sheets as one girl accidentally managed to damage one of them!

There was no name to this next exhibit, but it was a series of images of an athlete doing some running and jumping.

Overall the Light Festival was fun (and free). Parking nearby was $2/hour. We spent nearly two hours here and while we finished seeing most of the exhibits, we didn't manage to check out some of the exhibits there were housed indoors. It's a great spot to spend some of the now not-so-sucky winter nights. On a crowded night, budget easily 3 hours here, especially if you are into photography.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ducks in the Park On a Cold Day

It was the day after the snow storm. A few friends and I were taking a photography workshop, and after the class decided to venture to a nearby park for some practice shooting.

While our aim was to get some portrait shots in outdoor conditions, the park we went to had a (semi-frozen) pond with lots of ducks (loons) in it. Now there are beautiful creatures, and you don't often see them this time in the winter as many of them head south.

So it was to our surprise that we saw a huge bunch of them. Flying, swimming and people were feeding them bread, even though a sign asked them not to!

It was something to see these ducks walk so sure-footedly on the frozen part of the pond. Even the banks of the small brook were completely covered with ice (we had freezing rain as well), so it was tough for us to walk on, but these ducks were racing each other.

It was really the first time I had ventured out to a park in the winter, and I guess I should do it more often, if only for the photography. Winter (and the dead trees and the desolate landscape) can often make for some really dynamic pictures, full of drama and mood.

Girl on a Bridge
This picture above - "Girl on a Bridge" - remains one of my favourite shots from the day. Everything about it, from the bridge framed in the lower one third of the picture, to the girl and her stare across at something, and the barren yet tree laden landscape behind her tells a story.

Finally, our enthusiasm for pictures and photography could not compensate for the fact that it was getting colder (and it was evening too, so high ISO settings), so in the end we decided to call it a day. But I won't forget the Ducks in the Park.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Snow Day in Toronto

You know you are a Canadian who lives in Toronto when you take pictures of the white snow covered landscape after a snowstorm in the city. After all, it's Canada, it's winter ... snow is therefore expected. But we live in Toronto, so we are a little spoiled when it comes to weather..

We got 10 cm of snow today, starting early in the morning. A snow day is not bad if it happens on a Sunday. I mean, you don't have to go to work, so there's no traffic to beat.

However, there's lots and lots of shovelling to do. Driveways are covered in snow and you have to clear it soon after it stops snowing (or there's an accumulation of a certain amount). I am not exactly sure of the law, but you DO have to clear your own driveway and sidewalk.

And then as soon as you get it all clean (and you are really proud of yourself, as it's hard work!), it starts snowing again!

You really have to marvel at the evergreens. Snow, hail, sleet - these little trees shrug it off as if it's no big deal. These coniferous trees never loose their green hue and are common across Canada.

Meanwhile, if you HAVE to go somewhere, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. We had to head to the airport during one snow storm, and our flight was one of the few that wasn't cancelled. We took double the usual time to reach the airport. And not to mention, have a car that has winter tires installed, especially if you are going away up north.

Our backyward is now a far cry from the oasis it was during summer. And it's amazing to think that such weather could only be 3 months away. How soon things change in a 100 days!

This slipper is the only remnant of summer still out in the yard. It's patiently waiting for sunny weather and long days. Soon, sandal, soon!

Winter is synonymous with short days and long nights. Great for fasting, or for khichudi. Which is what we had.

And there's one more way to enjoy the winter at home.

How do you enjoy your snow days? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

7 Tips for Handlings Kids on Long Flights

Having recently travelled between Canada and India, with two toddlers, here's seven my tips to keep your kids entertained (and yourselves sane) during long haul flights.

1. Travel as light as possible

This is a general advice, but particularly suitable for travelling with kids. Just because you get two suitcases per person, doesn't mean you need to take two suitcases per person.

Remember, one parent will be taking care of the kids. The other parent will be taking care of the luggage. If you have ten suitcases, good luck. Our rule for four people was that we would take two suitcases full of our clothes etc. to India, and also carry two additional suitcases (empty) to bring stuff back. Everything (and that includes hand luggage, strollers etc.) should fit on two trolleys. We basically took half our quota and it made life so much easier.

2. Check everything in

When you have a screaming baby upset at something or the other, with the older brother angry because the younger one has taken his toy, and you are trying to go through security and taking your belt and shoes off, you don't want to deal with three carry-ons and two backpacks. Whatever you can, check it in. Obviously this is easier if you have less luggage over all to begin with (see #1).

3. Make sure to have extra set of clothes on you in the cabin

This would be in the backpack or carryon you took on board. There should be one extra set of clothes for everyone. For kids and for yourself as kids can pee on you (don't ask).

4. Dollar store sticker books are your friend

We took lots of activity books such as sticker books and colouring books that we bought from the dollar store. Kept the kids engaged for hours and you can throw way the book when done. We also took a few of their favourite toys, as well as loaded up the tablet with their favourite movies and TV shows. Bottom line: you have to keep your kids busy.

5. Bassinet seats are great

Try to get the bassinet seats (I called up Emirates to book seats on phone) even if you don't need the bassinet, as you still get the extra leg space. This is particularly useful if one of your children is under the age of two and doesn't have a seat of their own.

6. Snacks and Biscuits are meals too

Children usually don't like plane food (heck some adults don't either, and I don't blame them if it's Air Canada). So even if you ordered the special child meal, don't be upset if your child takes a bite or two and then proclaims "I'm done". Have lots of snacks, crackers, chocolates, Kinder Surprise etc. whatever junk foods the kids love. A Kinder Surprise (or called Kinder Joy in India) has the additional bonus of also being a toy. #keepthembusy

7. Relax

Remember, despite all of your best efforts, there will be a time they will cry and shout. Don't worry about it and don't worry about what anyone else things. Just try and tell yourselves "five more hours" and relax.