2019…a good year to come

My last post was a vision board I created for 2019, I thought I would write more about how I intend to reach these goals in the coming year. I don’t think these are so much resolutions, as ongoing plans.

1. Friendship was obviously a big issue, I don’t want to get into the details but basically over the last few years I have become a lot less close with some of my very closest friends. I’m sure they would say it’s my fault, I’m sure I would say it’s theirs, I guess there was a lot of miscommunication, and misunderstanding. Either way, I really miss having my closest friends, and their families, to spend time with. I’ve started to reach out more, and intend to continue to do so. I’m hoping that will help nourish the relationships that are important to me. It will also help make obvious which ones it is time to recognize are not right for me, and let go of them go. (For the record I do have friends, but less than I used to, and we also see them a lot less than I would like. I’m super social and love to have plans and be together with people all the time. It’s also important to me to have close intimate relationships with trusting people. I do have that, but I would like more of it!). I started last night by inviting 6 families to our home for New Year’s eve! Four of them came, and we had a wonderful time!

2. I’m also hoping to make some new friends, I’m not sure exactly how that’s going to happen but I have some idea about things I would like to get involved in, and also I want to put myself out there and reach out more to people that I know but I’m not as close to as I would like to be. I have tons of acquaintances and some of them I really adore and love to become closer friends with (others I know are just not the right fit for me, I do want to be picky about my friends because I can be a bit of a magnet for friends that are not right for me, and I don’t mean bad people, I just mean not right for me), at this age and stage that’s a hard thing to do…especially for me because I have a huge fear of rejection and a hard time reaching out. But I will. Again hopefully that will nourish some relationships, and also show me who might not be in the cards to be more than an acquaintance.

3. With regards to work, I’m not so much looking to leave my agency however I am always keeping my eye on opportunities. However it’s a struggle because I’ve been doing the same thing for 10 years, and the same type of thing for 18 years. My skill set is very specific to child protection. I love it and I love the kids, but it’s an emotionally exhausting job. I never give details about my work and I won’t now, I will just say that I am looking into maybe doing some courses to develop my skill set a bit, this will hopefully help me either move onto a different position, or develop some skills that I can use in my current position. Which can only benefit both my clients, and myself because the better they are doing, the better I am doing!

4. I am very much hoping to go to Israel, I’m 45 years old and have never been and it is starting to really weigh on me as a Jewish woman and mother. I have applied for a JWRP trip to Israel in the summer, if I do not get selected for that one I will keep looking for other opportunities. If I don’t end up going on a group trip, then I think that should be our next family vacation, even if we have to skip travelling for a couple years to make it happen.

5. I definitely want to feel less stressed. I’ve been doing a lot towards that, some of it’s a bit personal but I will say that between meditation, exercise, medication, and a good therapist; I’m definitely in a much better space and I’ve been for the last few years. I don’t think a lot of my friends and even family realized what a very dark place I was in through most of 2017 and 2018. Having my ovaries removed had a huge impact on my emotions, and set me on a whirlwind of anxiety and depression. It never got so bad that I couldn’t do the things I needed to do, so it didn’t really show, but it definitely impacted on how I related to other people, and how I felt about myself. It was very hard to wake up every day knowing that I was going to feel bad all day, I pushed myself through hoping it would just get better, now it has gotten better but I’ve had to take difficult steps to make it happen. I hope that my emotional health continues to improve!

6. Of course my physical health is important too. Lately I have really been working hard to make sure that I get at least eight hours of sleep a night, I know that sounds like a lot, but I’ve learned that it’s what I really need to be at my emotional and physical best. It takes good sleep hygiene, medication, and a consistent schedule to make it happen, but I’m working on all of those things! I’ve also been, as I’ve already referred to a bit in this blog, working out a lot harder than I have been for the last few years, and focussing more on strength building. I think that’s the best for the way my body looks, but I also know it’s very important for my health especially as a post menopausal woman. I continue to eat a relatively healthy plant-based diet, but I definitely would like to cut out more of the sugar. I did it a few years ago and I think it’s time to go back to being more careful about how much sugar I eat on a day to day basis. Although none of this is about weight, I am happy to say that I have maintained my weight loss from 2000/10 for another year! Of course my weight fluctuates a bit and I haven’t weighed the exact same thing for all these years, but close enough that I’ve never had to buy new clothing or change my size, which to me is what I consider “maintenance”.

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Vision board

Instead of preparing resolutions for the next year, I’ve created a vision board. I think it’s pretty obvious what I have in mind for 2019. Health, family, friendship, a new phone, fitness, getting a new job (or more likely somehow changing the way I cope with my current job), sleep, peace, etc…

I think friendship is the biggest one for me. Over the last couple of years I have felt very disconnected from some of my closest friends, I’m not even sure who my friends are anymore. I plan to figure that out in 2019; nourishing some relationships, letting go of others, and hopefully creating some new ones ❤️.

How about you?

Homemade vegan creamer

One thing I have struggled with since becoming vegan is creamer for my coffee. I like a thick creamy coffee! Most of the milk substitutes I have tried are just not as creamy as I would like. I’ve been dealing with it, but it’s not ideal. There are some you can buy in the store that are very good (Silk Almond is yummy!), but they have tons of sugar and are a bit of a chemical nightmare.

So, I’ve started making my own! It is full of cashews and therefore high in fat, but also high in protein, fibre, and Iron! Since I only drink one coffee a day I’m not too concerned about the fat content. If I was drinking coffee all day long (like I used to), I probably would not want to use this!

Ingredients:

-handful (1/2 cup-ish) of raw or roasted UNSALTED cashews)

-enough hot tap water to cover the cashews plus about an inch

-drop of vanilla extract (can be left out)

-1/2 teaspoon maple syrup (adjust to taste, you could also use a different sweetener if you prefer, or none)

Method:

2. Add the cashews to the bottom of a blender cup, and then add hot tapwater on top until the cashews are covered by about an inch. You may want to leave it to sit for a few minutes or up to an hour, I personally do not find this necessary as cashews are quite soft and blend easily.

3. Blend until creamy. This would probably be very quick in a Vitamix, I do not have a high-speed blender like that though, I do have a decent Ninja but I normally do this in my little smoothie making blender. It takes maybe three minutes to be completely smooth with no chunks or graininess*

4. Of course you can adjust the sweetener, and how much water you add depending how thick or thin you want it to be. If it’s too thick I usually just add a little bit of water and shake it up.

*This recipe, without the vanilla or sweetener, creates a delicious cashew cream that is great for adding to soups or sauces to get a creamy taste and texture without the dairy. For this purpose I usually add a little bit of salt or something else savoury.

Check out this creamy looking coffee!

*People act like if you don’t have a vitamix you can’t blend things smooth, but it’s actually not true! It just takes a little more time. I have made tons of recipes with my large ninja or mini Magic Bullet blender, that are supposedly only doable in a high-speed blender! You are not doomed if you cannot afford a Vitamix!

I’m yet to find a recipe that one of these two blenders cannot handle

Sick reads

Unfortunately, since I’ve been home from Cuba, I’ve been sick. It started out with strep (I had milk the first few days in Cuba, not realizing it was in one of the mixed drinks I was enjoying. I seem to be more reactive to dairy than gluten in these days, it gives me tonsilitis and fills my mouth with painful sores) that morphed into a horrible cold/flu thing and has finally settled into a bit of congestion and a stuffy nose. I’ve spent the last two weeks alternating between bed and doing a little bit of work that I couldn’t avoid. I hate that I haven’t been able to work out, because I was so excited to get back into it…but on the plus side I have I had almost no appetite, so at least I haven’t gained weight. That should make it a little bit easier to get back into the shape I was in in Cuba!

Between the flights, the vacation, and sitting home sick (with a broken TV that has just been replaced), I’ve done a lot of good reading lately! I’m going to share some of my favourite recent books with you, and some mini reviews.

There, There by Tommy Orange

This is the incredible and heartbreaking story of a group of indigenous Americans preparing for and attending a powwow. It goes deep into the past and present experience of the American native experience, and was a fascinating and eye-opening read, encompassing hope and tragedy.

Brother by David Chariandy

Absolutely incredible.

The book tells the story of Michael, a young Trinidadian boy growing up In Lawrence Park in the 90s, with his older brother, Francis. It is a short book but so well written, being from Toronto myself I can picture so much of what the book is about, however I cannot imagine but it would be like to grow up as a young black man in the city, then or now.

The book goes back-and-forth between a few hot summer weeks when the two boys were teenagers, and the present when Michael’s first love and some other young people from his past have come back into his and his mother’s lives.

Very well written, beautiful prose, the characters come to life, and it really brings home the poverty and racism faced by so many.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Fans of Orange is the new black and Wentworth will love this book, the story of a young woman who ends up in jail after killing her stalker. Beautifully written, going back-and-forth between the history that brought her here, and her life in prison. Weaved through Romy’s story are the backstories of some of the other inmates, staff, and people from her past. I listened to the audio version of this book, narrated by the author, and it was beautifully done.

Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

This book begins with a naked man runs through traffic, and then goes through time back to a commune/cult in the countryside of California. An amazing cast of characters including a hopeful teenager just out of juvenile custody, a young woman that shows up at the commune with her own secrets, twin brothers whose father ran the commune, a disillusioned lawyer, two homeless men roaming the desert trying to avoid the violence that always comes back. It takes a while to piece together how all these characters are connected, but when it happens it is mind blowing.

Varadero

Two years ago, Adam and I came to Cayo Coco, Cuba to celebrate our 15 year anniversary. We had a great time and fell in love with Cuba.

This year, we came to Varadero, and brought the kids!

I worked hard to get into good shape after our last family vacation!Thank you beachbody, for the 21 day fix and T25 workouts!

One of the highlights of our trip was going to Havana. A beautiful old city with amazing architecture and sculptures. So much history.

Havana is full of stray animals, even peacocks, that captured our hearts. Also stories of poverty and exceptionally unbelievably hard work, that broke our hearts.

Our resort, Memories Varadero Beach Resort, was beautiful and lively. Like always, there were some issues…(if you want to avoid them, you have to pay for 5 star and/or go somewhere that doesn’t have the limitations of Cuba!!!).

My review (for trip advisor)

Before I start my review I will say that everybody says the standards are lower in Cuba, however I have been before; same star (4) resort with similar descriptions and reviews. I knew what to expect.

I’ll start with the good:

-The grounds are lovely. Some people say they are too big and it’s too much walking. It is huge and there is a lot of walking, but it is not a problem for us. I love walking and we are all able to walk a lot so it was not a problem. There are a lot of golf carts all over, but you can’t really count on catching one. If you have limited mobility it might not be a great choice. Also you’d need a level one room.

-Activity pool was fun, with a good swim up bar, and a decent water slide. Always seemed clean. Always music.

-Our building (29) was very close to the activity pool and beach, about 10-15 minute walk from the cafeteria and lobby. Very close to the a la carte restaurants and kids club (which we didn’t use). A good location for a family or beach/activity lovers. The other loop closer to the lobby would be better for quieter guests looking for more relaxation.

-Very kind and friendly staff.

-Plenty of food and drinks.

-Wifi (for a cost which is typical) in the lobby is decent.

-The room was air-conditioned well, beds were comfortable, and they gave us extra pillows, and a rollaway bed.

-Decent entertainment day and night.

-The Doctor (I got tonsillitis, here the piña coladas have dairy) was kind and helpful. Consult and antibiotics was about $100cad. Hopefully my travel insurance will reimburse.

-A la carte restaurants were great, we did the Italian and Japanese. I had to eat at the buffet after the Italian due to my food restrictions, but Adam and the kids loved it! We all loved the food and preparation at the Teppanyaki.

Not so good

-Our room was a disaster. Clean and comfortable enough but the towel rack was barely hanging and could have badly hurt someone had it fallen. The showerhead did not stay on the wall and had to be held. Neither the phone nor the TV worked (of course we would not have needed the phone if other things weren’t broken). It took days (until the last day) to get it all repaired. The phone never was.

-There wasn’t really a good entertainment schedule. Sometimes there was a little piece of paper that said a few things, but nothing detailed. The they’re had a show schedule but none of the other activities. You had to just kinda learn it.

-The towel exchange was almost never open, I saw it open twice in the week, no schedule.

-The large quiet pool was closed the entire time. We had been told before we went to that it would be closed for a couple days, when we got there it was a week, by the time we left it was going to be close for at least another week. This was actually fine for us as we enjoyed the activity pool, but it meant the activity pool was much busier.

-The resort only gives soap and shampoo in the room. I expected conditioner and lotion as well (last Cuban resort we went to had). We had to buy it at the shop (I’d brought some of my own, but not enough for us all).

-The food at the buffet was very badly labeled. When they ran out of something, they would put something else in its place, but never change the label. Since I have some dietary restrictions, it was very difficult to know what I could and could not eat. I hated always bothering the staff and sometimes they didn’t know.

-The buffet had no system to show what tables were in use or not, often even the servers weren’t sure. Getting a dinner table between 6-9 was quite a challenge. One persons write a note on a napkin to show the table was in use!

-The food was mostly quite bland and tasteless…but none of us eat meat so maybe that’s better? Also the food never changed. It was the exact same options, lunch and dinner, every single day. I know not to expect much variety, but none?? It was also very limited for a gluten-intolerant vegan but that’s too be expected. I do remember enjoying the food at the last resort more (in spite of the same dietary limitations).

Something in the middle

-The shows; they were enjoyable and full of very talented people, but they were so loud. The circus show literally gave me a headache, I had to walk out and watch from outside. I started bringing earplugs.

-I really enjoyed the aqua-gym classes (11:30 AM and 4:30 PM-ish) until the end when he had us do these awkward massages on each other. Then they got us out and dancing on wet tile. I fell, twisting my ankle and hurting my butt. After that I usually swam away during the massage! I wish they just stopped it. I have no interest in giving or receiving a shoulder, neck, hair, and face massage with a stranger (Occasionally with their partner giving me dirty looks from the sidelines).

-Convenience shop: they had everything we needed (conditioner, sunscreen, toothpaste), open 9-4:30, but pricey. I paid $27 CAD for sunscreen. Also they don’t take credit cards.

-The beach buffet had similar food, but a more organized atmosphere and the food seemed to last more.

Tips:

-If you have an active group, building 29 or anywhere around the activity pool is great.

-If you see something you want to eat at buffet, grab it while it’s out or it may disappear.

-The buffet near the beach is smaller, but better organized and labelled, tables are usually available.

-bring more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. Also mouthwash of you are prone to throat infections.

-bring cash to transfer (at hotel). You can get cask advance on a visa or pay by visa for some things, but there are fees and it transfers to USD. (Damn tonsillitis!!)

-if you are allergic to dairy, avoid piña coladas. Traditionally it should not have dairy, it should be only coconut milk or cream…but it’s a mix here, and has milk powder.

-If you hate loud, bring earplugs to the shows.

-For a drink in a cool (like great ac) bar, try the sports bar across from the theatre. Great AC, nice atmosphere, and good staff.

Final analysis: When all was said and done, my family did enjoy our vacation, and I’m glad we went, but I would not choose this resort again unless it was a really great deal.