Sunday, March 15, 2020

Mexico in February

In February we took off for a week of sunshine and relaxation.  The day before we left was our 5 year anniversary, so this was a nice way to celebrate! 


We had a direct flight to Cancun, and we stayed at Coral Level at Iberostar Selection.  It's an adults-only resort within a larger resort.

When we were checking in, the view out the window was beckoning us to come outside and play.


The room was lovely, but the balcony was the best part.


We often got room service and enjoyed it while watching the waves below.


The food was pretty good, and I loved the burrata appetizer at the restaurant on the adult side.  You can't go wrong with burrata. 

 
 

Most days for lunch we had a bunch of freshly grilled veggies, topped with olive oil, salt and pepper.  They were so good!


One beautiful morning we got up around 5:00 a.m. and went to a beach bed to watch the sunrise.  It was pitch black when we got out there, but we looked at the stars, listened to the waves, and enjoyed the peacefulness. 

 

The beach was unreal!


The resort was very pretty as well, and the service was top-notch.

 
 

I was impressed with Christopher, as he spoke Spanish with the staff the entire time we were there!  He has been learning Spanish for at least an hour per day for the past year, and it is really starting to pay off.  When he sets his mind to something, he follows through, and I was surprised by how far his Spanish has come.  I really need to step up my practicing! 

All in all, it was a really nice winter getaway, and we're missing our daily dips in the ocean.


Did you get away this winter? Winter was actually quite nice this year in Saskatchewan - how was it where you are? 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

10 Week Internet Hiatus - What I Read

I'm back!  I thoroughly enjoyed my much-needed, 10 week Internet diet.  I missed seeing what people were up to, but I didn't miss celebrity updates, fake-news, and seeing people argue and get further divided online.  I enjoyed having my phone in another room most of the time, and it didn't take long for me to forget about it.  Due to Covid-19 and some stuff with my job, I did spend a bit of time online, but for the most part, I stuck to the plan I had set for myself.

What I felt the most during this past 10 weeks was a sense of relief.

It was nice to have less to pay attention to so I could give more focused attention to fewer areas of my life.  One thing I focused on was reading.  I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction, and in particular, science-based books.  With so much misinformation online, I like to read actual facts - information that has been tested using the scientific method.  When people dedicate their life's work to a particular field, those are the people I want to learn from, and those are the people I trust to provide accurate information in their respective fields.  And, well, when it's the year 2020, and there are still flat-Earthers it is really disheartening.   

The world could use a lot more science. 

I read 10 books in the 10 weeks that I was off-line (in addition to a couple for work), including:


1)  The Body - Bill Bryson

This is a very informative look at the human body, but it really made it apparent how little we know about our own bodies and how they function.  There is so much more to know, which is fascinating as I can't wait to see what is discovered in the future, but it also makes me feel like there should be a lot more funding for medical and scientific research. It was an interesting read but I would have liked it more if it had some health recommendations for each section (the sections were broken down based on body parts/systems.) 7/10

2)  The Reality Bubble - Ziya Tong

I was keeping notes on the books I read, and for this one I wrote, "This should be required reading for everyone."  It is a relevant and important book.  I learned a lot and was engaged throughout. I loved it!  Read a short description here, and see if it piques your interest as much as it did mine. 9.5/10

3)  The Mind-Gut Connection - Emeran Mayer, MD

This was a quick and enjoyable read, and it contained recent research on an area that I think will impact our understanding of health from now on.  I am really interested in the effect of diet on health and on the brain, so this book was right up my alley. 7/10

4)  The Brain that Changes Itself - Norman Doidge, MD

I really wanted to love this book.  It caught my eye years ago and I had it on my must-read list ever since; unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown for me.  It was full of medical stories, which aren't my favourite; I am more interested in the findings that came out of those stories.  Also, many of the stories were ones I already knew, such as that of Phineas Gage, which any psychology major will be familiar with.  It was not engaging for me, but if you love the stories that led to scientific and medical advancement, then this might be for you.  4/10

5)  Letters from an Astrophysicist - Neil Degrasse Tyson

I do not have a physics background and have never taken a physics class (big mistake, because physics is the coolest), yet this book was very readable and accessible.  Tyson shares his answers to various letters and emails he has received, and each answer is quite brief but so well explained, and just all-around satisfying.  It was a quick read. 8/10


6)  Brief Answers to the Big Questions - Stephen Hawking

This book was thought-provoking and engaging.  Hawking was one of the greatest minds of our time and he really got my wheels turning.  Although, it wasn't quite as good as Neil Degrasse Tyson's book, which was very similar to this one.  That being said, I give it a 7/10.

7)  The Ripple Effect - Greg Wells

This book provided good information, albeit unoriginal.  I didn't really enjoy the way it was written, but I suppose it would be a good, easily accessible introduction to scientific information in the areas of sleep, diet, exercise, and the brain. 4/10

8)  How to Love the Universe - Stefan Klein

This is another book that I really wanted to love.  Unfortunately, I found it repetitive and unoriginal. Part of my dislike for it could be because I read it after a couple of other books about space and the universe, and it repeated a lot of what was in those books but wasn't written as well.  4/10

9)  The Prince - Machiavelli

This book is not in line with my interests at all, but I've had it on my bookshelf for ages, and I am tired of having unread books on the shelf.  I found it really boring, and I struggled to stay focused while reading.  It was written about a billion years ago, or something, and is apparently a classic, but for me, it is a #NOPE. Fortunately, it was a very quick read.  1/10

10)  Hyperspace - Michio Kaku

We saw the brilliant Michio Kaku in line at JFK airport a few years ago.  Actually, he was directly in front of us in the security line for a good while.  Christopher was star-struck. Unfortunately, for what I am convinced is one of the first times in Christopher's life, a name slipped his mind.  He racked his brain to get the name, but it didn't come to him until we had left the airport, and Christopher says he just couldn't address him without using his name.  So, that's the story of the time that we never talked to Michio Kaku. 

His book was mind-bending.  It opened my mind to a whole new world, and to physics ideas that I had never taken the time for before.  It's the stuff science fiction is made of, and it was much more fascinating and in-depth, and complicated than I ever imagined. This guy is as smart as I wish I was ... 8/10

My plan for tomorrow - go to the library!  And, I have more to share about what we've been up to over the past 10 weeks, including some travel, and of course, our eats.

What are you reading?
Have you ever taken an Internet or social media hiatus?
Have you ever been star-struck?  Who did you see?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

20 in 2020

I am really excited for 2020, as Christopher and I have so much to look forward to this year.  We'll celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary in February, and in June it will be 20 years since I graduated high school.  Our province is hosting two of the biggest events held in Canada - the Grey Cup, and the Juno Awards, neither of which we'll attend, but it's fun that they are happening in Saskatchewan, and we might partake in some of the festivities that will surround these.  We have a couple of big trips planned, including a relaxing beach vacation, and a longer, bucket-list trip!  Annnnnd we have a new niece or nephew arriving this year!  My sister is due in May, and we're pumped to meet the new addition to our family.

I've created a list of 20 things to do in 2020, and I'm going to post them somewhere in the house so they are visible and more likely to be accomplished.  Some of these are carried over from 2019, and I've tried to make them more measurable and specific than I have in past years.

20 Things-To-Do in 2020

1)  Try floating in a sensory deprivation tank.

2)  Go on a double date with another couple to a new restaurant in town that we want to try, at least four times in the year - weeknight, weekend, whenever it works! 

3)  Host a minimum of three low-key get-togethers with friends/family over the year (games night, order-in and visit, just come over for coffee and dessert, etc.). 

4)  Read a minimum of 25 books this year, and keep track of all of them, along with my ratings, etc., and do a recap post at the end of the year of my top reads.

5)  Go on a weekend road trip to a small town near us that we've never spent any time in before.

6)  Canoe on Wascana Lake.
 
7)  Do something to commemorate my 20-year high school reunion, even if it's as simple as getting together with friends that I graduated with at our old watering hole, or retaking a photo from grad, and doing a side-by-side 20 years later (I always find those types of photos fun to look at.)

8)  Learn a new skill. 

9)  Cook a minimum of 20 recipes from cookbooks that we currently own.

10)  Go to the Globe Theatre at least twice.

11)  Go to at least three concerts, big or small.

12)  Listen to all of the vinyl in the basement from start to finish.  This was initially a winter plan, but I think it needs to be a 2020 goal, as we have a lot of music!

13)  Visit some Little Free Libraries in town, borrowing a few, and leaving as many as will fit.

14)  Print and frame a few of our favourite photos.  This one for sure:


15)  Get two new plants for the living room.  We brought in our hot pepper plants from the front step as the weather turned cool this fall, and loved the look of them in our living room.  They are outdoor plants, so we want to find a couple to take their place, as they made our house feel cozier.

16)  Buy new pillows!  We hate our pillows, and sleep is so important.  We need to stop talking about this and actually go and do it.  I have my eye on a pillow that stays cold.

17)  Go to at least one movie in the theatre a month, or a total of 12 throughout the year. 

18)  Paint something.  A canvas.  A wall.  Anything.  This is just something I want to do at home; I have zero interest in those painting classes where everyone paints something similar, or an art class of any type.  I can't work like that.

19)  Find a really good spot to see the night sky, and do some stargazing.

20)  Go on an Internet "Diet".  I remember 20 years ago, when I was just starting out as a university student, and we still had dial-up Internet.  I'd be trying to research, as the pages loaded so slowly, only to be disconnected as soon as someone upstairs picked up the phone.  At that time the Internet was a source of a lot of frustration for me, but it ended up becoming a place where I could connect, become informed, and be creative.  After twenty years of watching the World Wide Web grow into what it is today, I've never really had a break from it, and I kind of want to see what it feels like to step away temporarily.  So much of what I am seeing online these days is just not resonating with me, and the start of 2020 seems like a good time to pick up the metaphorical phone, and give my brain a refresh.  I have some other writing I'd like to do, a bunch of books I want to read, and I want the mental space to do these things without distraction.

I have given some thought as to what this Internet Diet will look like.

What's Staying?
  • I'll still be using the Internet for quickly taking care of business such as banking, booking travel, checking the weather, making reservations, or making necessary purchases.
  • I will still check my email.
  • I will use the Internet when necessary for my job (only while at work).
  • I'll research excursions or information needed for the trips we have planned, but I'll set aside limited time on the weekend for this, and not search outside of this time.
  • I am not willing to give up videos of our nieces and nephews, so I will watch Instagram stories only, and have set a limit on my phone for 10 minutes per day max, and will only check these once per day, in the evening.  Same thing with Snapchat.  I have turned off all notifications, except if a family member posts a snap.  I will check those quickly and nothing else.
What's Going?
    • Blogging
    • Facebook
    • Reddit
    • All unnecessary internet searches that aren't for a specific, time-sensitive purpose, such as for an upcoming trip, or to check if a business is open, or something like that
    • Almost all Social media (I have moved all social media apps away from the home screen of my phone, and have turned off nearly all notifications; I will not be posting anything and will stay off these almost completely, other than to watch videos of our nieces and nephews for the time specified above, and only on the two apps mentioned.)  
    • Online news 
    • Basically, everything that is not mentioned under "What's Staying"
    How Long?
    • 10 weeks, starting today.  I'll see you back here on March 14th, and will share my thoughts at that time, and reflect on what life was like for 10 weeks with very limited Internet time.  I feel like 10 weeks is a good amount of time to really feel a difference, and to reflect on what is different.  I want to see how much more time I have, what books I can read in that time, and if I miss any app or website more than others, and what I miss about it.  Basically, I just want some insight. 
    When the 10 Weeks are Up
    • I'll catch up on what I missed on the blogs I love the most, and have a look at what some friends and family members have been up to online, so expect some late likes and comments come March 😄  I don't want to miss out on what my friends and family are up to, but I do want to disconnect for a while and just chill.
    • I'll still be writing and taking photos when I feel inspired over the next 10 weeks, and will likely share some of what we've been up to around here.
    See you back here on March 14th! 𝝅

    Do you have any goals, resolutions, to-do list items, etc. for 2020?

    Friday, January 3, 2020

    Cleaning Burnt Sugar etc. from a Pot: What Actually Works

    Back in early November, I was making a tangy mustard sauce for pork and completely forgot about it.  I went into another room while the sugar, mustard powder, egg, and vinegar boiled away for about half an hour, until all that was left was what looked like a ruined pot.  We tried everything to get the pot clean, turning to Google for all the answers.

    Boiled water, soapy water, baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, scrubbing with a metal scouring pad, and every combination of those, plus a few more tricks I am probably forgetting, and nothing worked.  We thought we'd have to throw the pot away for sure. 

    So, then it got to be December, and I was frustrated with the darn pot.  I put some water in it, put a lid on it, and let it sit, figuring I'd worry about it after Christmas, and if I couldn't find a solution, then we'd shop for a new pot in January. 

    Well, as luck would have it, the plain old water, sitting for weeks, was exactly the trick!  Nothing fancy - no boiling needed - no scrubbing - just good old water, and patience.

    After eventually taking the lid off of the pot, we saw this floating in there:


    It lifted right out, and the bottom of the pot was as good as new. 

    Water is magic!


    Have you ever had to replace a pot or pan because you burned something so badly?

    Moving into 2020

    On December 30th we ate a vegetarian dinner and enjoyed the Christmas decorations for the last night before they would come down.

    Spaghetti squash, spinach & cheese tomato sauce, baked with cheese.
    On New Year's Eve, while Christopher was at work, I took down all of the Christmas decorations and cleaned the house.  I wanted to start out the new year with a fresh, clean home.

    After cleaning, I got to work on Guinness brownies, and Korean rice pockets, that we'd be contributing to a potluck in the evening.


    Once Christopher was home we got ready to go out.  We didn't have to think too much about what to wear, because it was a pajama party!  It's a fun tradition with our friends (since everyone's kids have been born) to ring in the new year with a potluck pajama party for all the adults and kids.


    I wish I would have snapped some more pictures from the evening, as I was ringing in 2020 with so many of the same people that I rang in the new millennium with 20 years ago.

    I remember a bunch of us being at our friend Mark's house.  I was in grade 12, and the whole Y2K apocalypse thing was such a big deal back then, so it really made for an exciting new year celebration.  Of course, nothing special happened when the clock struck midnight, but memories with friends were made, and 20 years later we are all still friends and are still getting together to celebrate.

    This year we were at our friends' Chris and Cori's house, and it was a really nice time.

    We didn't stay out too long past midnight and were up pretty early the next morning.  Our first meal of 2020 was this delicious breakfast that Christopher made:

    Shredded hashbrowns, fried mushrooms, sprouts, egg.
    I think 2020 is going to be a very memorable year - more on that in one of the next posts.

    How did you ring in the new year?

    Wednesday, January 1, 2020

    A Look Back at 2019

    Happy New Year!

    I hope you had a wonderful time ringing in 2020.  I am so excited for 2020, but first, I'll reflect a bit on 2019, a year that had a major impact on my life.

    Twenty-nineteen was a year of adventure for me.  I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and tried to read, watch, and listen to books, TV, and music that expanded my horizons and tastes. 

    The year started out bitterly cold, so escaping to Havana was sweet relief; however, it was a challenging place to travel to, and we definitely didn't have a luxurious vacation.  We stayed with locals in a Casa Particular and had an incredible learning experience.  My number one must-do in Havana would be Fabrica de Arte.  This is one of the coolest places I have ever been to in my life, and I'd go back to Havana just to spend more time exploring, dancing, and enjoying every aspect of Fabrica de Arte.  It is an absolute must if you ever travel there.


    I ventured overseas for the first time ever, when we went to Chiang Mai, Thailand in April.


    It was the trip of a lifetime, and we made some incredible memories.  Climbing up the face of the Bua tong waterfall, participating in the largest water fight in the world, and nurturing elephants at an elephant sanctuary were the highlights that we'll remember forever.  In addition to our favourite food, we also had some new delicious eats in Thailand, including mango sticky rice, and souffle pancakes.


    We spent May long weekend in Edmonton.


    We had an incredible VR experience, went to a concert, went water sliding with family, met up with Christopher's aunt, and also discovered a delicious restaurant, Biera.


    In the summer we had a great time camping, and spending as much time as possible in our backyard.  We focused on being present and in the moment and enjoying the quiet, simple pleasures in life.


    I celebrated 10 years of Everyday Foodie!


    On that note, some of our favourite foodie finds of 2019 include:

    Local and Fresh - an awesome new market in town for all things local and delicious.


    Teff - a really delicious and healthy grain.


    Smoking all the foods - we got a smoker from Christopher's parents this year, and LOVE it!


    Thirteen Pies - delicious sourdough pizza in Saskatoon.


    Mexican Street Corn - this will be a new summertime staple in our house.


    Low Country Boil - this will also be on regular rotation for all summers to come.


    Chili Verde - a new fall favourite.


    Linguine with Green Olive Sauce and Zesty Breadcrumbs - we're addicted, and this has been added to the regular rotation.


    I had some items on my To-Do List for 2019, but I didn't do too well with them.  I've graded myself below:

    1) Try floating in a sensory deprivation tank.   
    F - didn't do this.  It will be on the list for 2020.

    2) Have more casual/ low-key get-togethers with friends and family.   
    C - we definitely did this more than we had in previous years, but it's another one that will be on the list for 2020.  I loved our casual get-togethers with Matt and Alissa recently - exactly the type of thing I had in mind.

    3) Go on a day trip to a small town near us that we've never visited before.   
    F - didn't do this. Add it to the 2020 list!

    4) Read more.  (I also wanted to read some books outside of my typical choices, which are usually food/ nutrition science, or behavioral/ brain science, non-fiction books.)
    C+ - I read about 20 books this year, which is quite low for me, so this will be another one for the 2020 list.  My favourite reads of the year were: "The Molecule of More", "Everything is F'd", and "The Culture Code."  I did do some reading outside of my typical genre choices, but not as much as I'd like.  Christopher's favourite read of the year was, "Letters from an Astrophysicist".

    5) Learn a new skill.  
    D - I did learn some more Spanish at our Spanish classes and on Duo Lingo, and took a cooking class in Thailand, but I don't know if I learned a specific new skill.  I did learn a lot in general, so that counts for something though!

    I might not have done well with this to-do list for 2019, but I am totally okay with that, as it's often the things that you can't plan or prepare for that turn out to be the best.  I learned so much this year and had so many new experiences.  I grew personally, and my marriage, career, and health flourished. I came away from 2019 feeling on top of the world, and you really can't ask for more than that.


    Farwell to a year of adventure, learning, and growing. 

    Farewell to the most unpredictable, exhilarating, and wild decade, with the lowest lows to the highest highs, and everything in between. 

    2020, let's do this!