Time For Summer! Here Are The Top 20 Pool Tips To Ensure All Your Family And Friends

September 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Traveling tips

* A person must learn to swim and always swim with a buddy, never swim alone.
* Swim in areas accompanied my a lifeguard.
* Be observant and read and obey all pool rules and posted signs.
* Children or beginner swimmers should wear a floatation device in and around the water.
* Set water safety rules for the entire family based on their swimming abilities.
* Become informed of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards. This may include it’s deep and shallow areas, it’s currents, etc..
* Check out the local weather conditions and forecasts prior to swimming.
* When entering the water, use a feet-first method.
* Dive only when the area is clearly marked for diving.
* Do not consume alcohol while swimming, diving or boating.
* Know how to prevent, recognize, and respond to all emergencies.
* Never, never, leave children alone next to a pool. Children are very curious individuals and may fall within a fraction of a second.
* Install a phone next the your pool area and post a 9-1-1 sign in clear view.
* Learn how to perform CPR on all individuals and post the instructions in clear view for others to refer see and learn as well.
* Wear sunscreen. Protecting your skin from UV Rays in very important.
* Drink a lot of water even if you don’t feel thirsty. This can prevent heat stroke.
* Always keep basic life saving devices near the pool, such as a rope, a pole, or a personal flotation device.
* Completely remove your pool cover before allowing anybody to enter the pool.
* Don’t leave pool furniture close to your fence, this would enable a child to climb.
* Don’t ever run near a pool, the wet ground can cause an individual to slip and fall.


Ready, Set, Summer Tips For Stress free Adventures

July 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Travel information

Filled with sunny days and dispositions, summer is for the lighthearted. For many, it’s the season for camping trips and barbeques. Here are some suggestions that will help take you seamlessly through this traditional vacation-time season.

Set yourself up for success and avoid burned skin, blisters and back pain. There’s no better time to pick up a new backpack with enhanced shoulder and back support, the best sun protection gear available today, and a versatile pair of all-terrain footwear. As fabrics continue to evolve into lightweight, multifunctional marvels of technology, there are many smart choices available for the entire family.

Exploring the Wilderness

If hiking and camping are your family’s activities of choice, you have an array of gear to choose from, including tents, bicycles, outdoor tools and backpacks. For example, the Pearl Titanium™ backpack incorporates top-of-the-line materials and design elements such as S-curve laminated shoulder straps, a foam-padded back and taped seams for increased weather protection. Gone are the days of bulky, heavy packs. The newest backpacks are lightweight and come with extra functionality to make the most of every square inch.

Once the right pack is taken care of, ensuring you have essential survival items, including area maps, first aid supplies and extra food and water, will ease your worries and enable you to enjoy the experience.

Water Sports

Many families take to the lakes, rivers and ocean beaches to beat the heat of summer. Sun protection should never be underestimated. Apply a broad-spectrum sun-blocking lotion and reapply often. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too. A great option available now is clothing that incorporates Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) into the fabric, blocking up to 97.5 percent of UV rays. The Titanium Silver Ridge™ shirt by Columbia Sportswear provides enhanced UPF protection, moisture wicking properties to keep you cool and dry, and stretch for comfort.

Versatility from Peaks to Coast

Always take care of those feet. Invest in a good pair of versatile outdoor shoes that can take you from the mountains to the beach. The Titanium Thresher Interchange™ sandal by Columbia Sportswear is extremely versatile and perfect for endeavors in and out of the water.

Peter The Great

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Top Vacation Destinations

During the communist reign in Russia, architectural styles could best be described as bland. Fortunately, the summer palace of Peter the Great wasn’t affected.


Known as Peterhof, the summer palace of Peter the Great is a very impressive area. The palace is arranged with a central rectangle format over roughly two or three acres. This area is then surrounded by areas of wood and “nature” as the Russians call it. Peterhof stands out like a jewel among the bland communist structures found in greater St. Petersburg.

Fountains, Fountains, Fountains

At the time of construction in 1715, Peter the Great was clearly in his “fountain” phase. Peterhof isn’t so much a palace as a collection of some of the most impressive fountains you’ve ever seen. There are fountains in the front, back, each side, in the bathroom and so on. All of them are impressive and worth a look.

Foremost of the fountains of Peterhof is the Great Cascade. Arriving from St. Petersburg by boat, one is offloaded on a long pier at the end of the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal cuts through the woods surrounding Peterhof directly to the front of the palace. As you proceed, you start to notice something big and colorful at the front of the palace. Welcome to the Great Cascade.

The Great Cascade sites at the base of Peterhof and is more impressive than the palace. Created in the Baroque style, the Great Cascade is hard to describe. At its base is a pool a large pool with rock platforms crowned by golden statutes spouting water. Rising up from the pool to the palace are two sets of steps surrounding a plateau. The steps are a combination of black marble inlaid with gold and white marble. The steps are crowned with statues and, again, fountains, which make them a combination of sprouting water and cascading falls. All of this is built up on a collection of rock and rises over 30 feet to the base of the palace. As I said, the Great Cascade is hard to describe. If you would like to see it, just do a search for “Peterhof” on your search engine of choice.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Great Cascade is the power source. With fountains blowing water thirty to fifty feet in the air, there must be some serious pump action at work? Nope. Peter the Great created a system that runs entirely off gravity. Great, indeed!

Day trips to Peterhof are hocked something fierce in St. Petersburg. While I usually disdain tourist traps, this is one you should definitely see.

Hello From Toronto

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Destinations

It’s been a pretty amazing summer so far. The weather has been pretty good since as far back as April. Occasionally, we’ve had rain showers and thunderstorms, but much of the rain has actually fallen over night. The weather on the weekends has been great for the most part, perfect conditions to enjoy all the activities and festivals that the city has to offer. I decided earlier this year that I would be spending this summer in Toronto without any major travel assignments overseas. So this is my chance to focus on local explorations.

And the offerings are amazing: I already wrote detailed articles from my explorations at Toronto’s Doors Open architectural festival, my exciting day at the Dragonboat Festival on Toronto’s Islands, the Taste of Little Italy, Summerlicious – Toronto’s restaurant festival, the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival and Afrofest. There are simply not enough hours in the week to cover all my explorations since I have decided to head out and discover as many places and activities as possible right here in Toronto. Here is a little summary of some of the other activities I have participated in that I haven’t had a chance yet to talk about in detail.

On June 25, 2006 I headed out to Toronto’s Pride Parade, one of the biggest parades in Toronto, and one of the largest of its kind in the world. This year’s parade theme was “Fearless!” to indicate how far Toronto’s queer community has come and how far they still have to go. From its original roots as a protest event, Toronto’s Pride Parade today has become a real family affair with special events for families and children. The city has embraced this event and it has great support from the mayor, the police, various corporate sponsors and politicians from all political parties. The big events of Pride Week included the Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall, Pride Awards and a Gala Dinner, the Dyke March as well as the dazzling Pride Parade. Seven entertainment stages provided entertainment with about 650 artists, the Community Fair included participants from a large variety of community groups, and the Marketplace enticed the crowd with merchandise, clothing, and various accessories and treats.

Then on July 14 and 15 not only did I attend a street festival, together with my team we actually participated in the Salsa on St. Clair Festival. This festival was held for the first time last year and attracted more than 200,000 participants in its first year. Telelatino, Canada’s Latin broadcasting network, developed the idea for this festival and organized a huge street party. This year the crowd was even bigger than in the first year.

We had a table together with Skills for Change, a local immigrant settlement agency with whom we collaborate frequently. To jointly promote our two organizations we were holding a draw to give away a one-week adventure trip along the Inca Trail in Peru. The trip itself will be provided by G.A.P Adventures, the flagship sponsor of our Travel Story Contest, and a leader in environmentally sustainable and socially conscious travel. Over two days we spent almost 20 hours in the sweltering sun, interacting with the crowd, and many hundreds of people wanted to get to get a chance to explore the mysteries of Peru.

In between these special events I have also had a chance to explore the city by bike and on inline skates. A couple of weeks ago I cycled out to the Scarborough Bluffs and spent some time in one of my favourite Toronto spots: the Rosetta McClain Gardens. This is a beautiful public garden with gorgeous flower beds and serene sitting areas, perched high above Lake Ontario with great vistas of this peaceful expanse of water.

From there I cycled east through a variety of parks abutting the Scarborough Bluffs which are essentially cliffs formed from eroded packed clay soil. They stretch for about 14 km along Lake Ontario in the east end of Toronto, and at their highest point they rise 65 meters above the water. The most interesting formations can be found around Bluffer’s Park, a large waterfront park featuring a sandy beach, picnic areas, walks, lookouts, and berths for over 500 boats.

Toronto, with its location right on Lake Ontario, is a haven for cyclists and water sports enthusiasts, and the waterfront has numerous extensive parks right on the shoreline that are ideal for picnics, sunbathing and relaxing by the water. The Martin Goodman Trail is a multi-purpose recreational trail with a length of about 22 km along Toronto’s Waterfront and gives inline skaters and bicyclists a chance to exercise and soak up the sun right next to the water. Last weekend I strapped on my rollerblades and explored the Waterfront Trail along Toronto’s West end in Etobicoke, and the nicely paved trail continues into Toronto’s neighbouring cities Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington.

But serene nature experiences not only await at the waterfront, the City has several other spots that allow you to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Last week I spent a couple of hours exploring Riverdale Farm, Toronto’s Necropolis and the surrounding Cabbagetown Neighbourhood. Riverdale Farm is actually an early 20th century farm that has been turned into a learning opportunity for urban dwellers that exposes them to farm animals and a rural environment. The peaceful park outside Riverdale Farm is a favourite destination for school groups and adults who relax under the shady trees and cool off in the public fountains.

Right next to Riverdale Farm is the Toronto Necropolis, one of Toronto’s oldest and most historic cemeteries. Dating back to the 1850s, it houses a collection of Victorian buildings and sculptures and is one of the most picturesque locations in the city. The recently restored cemetery entrance, chapel and office are fine examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture and the Necropolis is a favourite destination for photographers year-round.

Both Riverdale Farm and the Toronto Necropolis are surrounded by Cabbagetown, a historic neighbourhood with a very interesting history. The name “Cabbagetown” dates back to the mid 19th century, when Irish immigrants decided to plant unusually large cabbage patches on their front lawn. Cabbagetown has one of the largest and most impressive concentrations of Victorian architecture in all of North America. Local residents take great pride in their properties and embellish their homes with well-tended front and back gardens and the area is a magnificent location for a relaxing stroll.

So many other neighbourhoods beckon to be explored: I have spent some time at Harbourfront and recently took a walk through Toronto’s main Chinatown and the adjoining Kensington Market where exotic fruits and unusual foods can be purchased at reasonable prices. The sheer variety of Toronto’s neighbourhoods is mind-boggling and it feels like you are doing a virtual trip around the world by just walking a few blocks or hopping on the subway. I have made several forays into the Victorian serenity of Riverdale and the adjoining hustle and bustle of the Danforth, one of my favourite neighbourhood hangouts.

These past few days have been busy too. On Friday, my entire crew at the office and I went to a local Pakistani restaurant in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park Neighbourhood. The entire neighbourhood is perched on a hill overlooking the Don Valley and was developed with numerous high-rise buildings in the 1950s and 1960s. Today Thorncliffe Park is one of the most densely populated and most multicultural neighbourhoods of Toronto with a large proportion of recent immigrants from Muslim countries. We had an absolutely delicious dinner with a selection of Pakistani dishes at Iqbal Restaurant. Several of my co-workers are from Pakistan and we have had a great introduction to Muslim foods and traditions. Toronto offers so many great opportunities for cross-cultural connections. We shared six different delicacies including chicken, lamb, beef and chick pea dishes and had a wonderful time sampling this varied cuisine.

After our truly delicious dinner all of us headed down to Queen Street East where the Beaches International Jazz Festival was being held. This festival is now in its 18th year, and has become a crowd favourite since its 1989 inception. We started at Woodbine and right away ran into our favourite: Dr. Draw, a highly energetic Moscow-born electric violinist surrounded by a team of dedicated musicians. This band produced a highly eclectic, unusual type of music with a diverse mixture of beats with modern and classical elements thrown in. In addition, Dr. Draw has a highly physical performance style and it makes you wonder how he plays the violin so well while jumping up and down. We saw several other rock and reggae bands, and a 3-person group named Johannes Linstead entertained us with virtuoso flamenco rhythms. Incidentally, this group won the Best World Album in 2004 and has top ten charting albums. In total the Beaches Jazz Festival featured over 30 performers in its StreetFest and ten headliners on the Main Stage.

I dropped by at the Beaches Jazz Festival again with two friends yesterday, and at the north end of Kew Gardens we saw Toronto’s Mayor David Miller being photographed with members of the crowd. Mayor Miller makes appearances at many community events and is very approachable. So we decided that we too would get our picture taken with Toronto’s mayor.

We then strolled over to the Main Stage and checked out some of the ecclectic clothing, jewellery and art on sale in the various booths that were located throughout Kew Gardens. People were getting henna tattoos, others were getting readings by psychics, and the majority of people were relaxing on the grass, enjoying the music. Some folks were also getting their surprisingly accurate portraits done…

On the Boardwalk we enjoyed the hot Spanish rhythms of Puente del Diablo before we checked out the action at the beach volleyball courts. One of my friends is a visitor from Austria, so this was her first introduction to Toronto while my other friend is a fairly recent immigrant who doesn’t yet know the city very well either. I quite enjoy taking new arrivals around the city, introducing them to all my favourite spots. As a city on a lake that looks like an ocean, the waterfront is a great attraction, and it’s a really cool place to hang out.

To explore more we then hopped into the car and decided to pay a visit to the Distillery District, a former distillery dating back to 1832. This complex encompasses more than 40 historic buildings that make up the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in all of North America. The Distillery District has been restored recently and has become one of Toronto’s hottest entertainment areas with its restaurants, cafes, galleries and artists’ studios, a brewery, theatres and retail outlets. Every Sunday the Distillery features a farmers market and numerous festivals draw huge crowds throughout the year.

Our “Introduction to Toronto” driving tour continued and I took my friends downtown on Front Street and showed them the Gooderham Building – Toronto’s own triangular Flatiron Building. Then we admired Old and New City Hall, the classical splendour of Osgoode Hall, the imposing Richardson Romanesque structure of Queens Park – seat of Ontario’s provincial government, and the Neo-Gothic splendour of the University of Toronto campus. After a brief tour through Chinatown we had a sneak peak at Little Italy and ended up for dinner in the picturesque Annex neighbourhood on Bloor Street West, just west of Spadina. Along the way we drove through Portuguese, Ethiopian and Korean neighbourhoods.

Finally we had a lovely dinner at the Country Style Hungarian Restaurant, a neighbourhood institution for decades, which impresses with its tasty authentic European meals, reasonable prices and huge portion sizes. All three of us enjoyed a Wiener Schnitzel and to top off a delicious meal we enjoyed “Palatschinken”, a mouth-watering dessert featuring a crepe filled with apricot jam.

Each one of these experiences deserves its own article, but there are just so many things to see and do in Toronto, I just can’t keep up with the stories. But I am hoping this little medley of stories will give you an idea of Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods, culinary offerings, exciting festivals and things to do during a great long hot summer.

For the entire article including photos please visit


Enjoy Summer And Vacation Good Health

April 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Traveling tips

Summer can be a real health challenge. Our ambitious travel plans leave us vulnerable to new influences from the new environments we so eagerly embrace. Here are some practical tips on how to stay balanced, energetic and well.


You needn’t cross the desert to suffer from dehydration. Many of us suffer chronic dehydration simply because we don’t drink as much water as we should. Our bodies are 65-80% of water, depending on our age. To keep them in balance, it’s no surprise – we need lots of water! And many people just don’t drink enough of it. Sodas, juices, coffee and teas do not answer the same need, with the result that the flow in our body systems is disturbed. Our arteries become polluted and our organ function is compromised. People with cardiac disease, and kidney and gallbladder stones often don’t drink 6-8 glasses of water a day and are chronically dehydrated.

Drinking only sodas, coffee, alcohol and the like also depletes our minerals and vitamins, harming us even more. To counteract this depletion we need a quality multivitamin. How to know what constitutes good quality? Put your multivitamin in a glass of water. If it hasn’t dissolved in ½ hour it will probably not be absorbed in your body, but will simply be eliminated. Be sure, too, that it is as natural as possible. For example, Vitamin E called tocopheryl is obtained naturally. If this is not stated on the bottle, it is probably an artificially derived version that is inferior.

Stress and Depression

Stressed out? Use Vitamin C daily. If you want to detoxify as well, take at least 2000 mg. per day. Depressed? Send me an email. I am working on two articles full of practical suggestions that will make a difference.

Get a good massage: Your friend doesn’t have to be an expert to rub some Oil of Oregano into your muscles with love and goodwill. You will feel your muscles relaxing as oxygen penetrates deep into the tissue. Don’t forget your shoulders and neck, the places we most often tend to tense up. Where to obtain Oil of Oregano?

Eat fruits and vegetables in abundance and avoid sugars. Did you know that every bacteria and virus loves to grow on sugar? Avoid polyunsaturated fats, use unheated cold-pressed olive oil as much as possible, and use flaxseed to get your omega 3.

Summer flu

Stomach flu (or gastroenteritis) is often caused by a virus or food poisoning. Avoid solids for the first day. Drink water, broth (?Pieternel?) and some apple juice to maintain your electrolyte levels. A tablespoon of acidophilus every hour can be beneficial. When you can tolerate solids, start with grated apple and cinnamon, mashed bananas and rice water (water and rice has been cooked). Aloe Vera juice is also a good option, or kefir in its natural form. If this goes well, expand your variety of foods slowly.


Aloe Vera is excellent for sunburn, whether in juice form or straight from the plant. See www.pieternel.com
It’s best to avoid extended exposure to sunshine as much as possible. It can dry out the mucus in your nose, eyes and ears. To cleanse and make these parts succulent again, use a solution of salt water. Warm up one cup of water with a pinch of salt – about as salty as your tears. Let it cool, then put it into a dropper bottle. Use it to clean out your nose, eyes and ears, where it can accelerate the hygienic discharge of mucus.

Swimmer’s Ear (and Earaches generally)

Is anything more relaxing than getting away from it all with a good swim? For some though, this means “swimmer’s ear” and earaches. But these need not discourage you. For problems with swimmer’s ear use Earacheaway. The name says it all. This is a remedy with a base of olive leave extract and vinegar that will relieve your infected ears. For more information see

Be sure to enjoy your life and radiate love, so love finds its way back to you.

Warmly, Pieternel van Giersbergen

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