Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The trouble With Our Schools

Today in the Vancouver Sun one of my favourite columnists wrote this article about the teachers strike, ESL & class composition,


I totally agree, and wrote a letter to the editor along the same lines, back in 2009.  I believe that if you want to learn another language  you will have to invest your time and money to do that.  If you want to move to Mexico and go to school there, you need to learn spanish on your own dime.  Only in Canada will we offer to pay these costs for immigrants, sometimes we Canadians are just "too nice"!
I may not have written it as well as Ms Fralic, so I'd like to thank her for bringing the topic up again.  Class composition & ESL, should be up for public discussion without the fear of being labeled discriminatory.


Immigrant's responsibility to learn the language

Vancouver Sun
Fri Jul 3 2009
Page: A6
Section: Editorial
Byline: Carolyn Keay
Source: Vancouver Sun 

I don't agree with Manori Ravindran's letter of June 30. Why should it be the financial responsibility of Canadians to educate people who choose to immigrate here?
Unless you are a refugee, you probably planned to move to Canada. If you want to work and be part of society, you need to learn the language, so why not learn it before you get here?
I also disagree with the Canadian government paying for ESL students. Why should we hire extra teachers to teach English to young children whose parents haven't bothered to learn English?
If I (a third-generation Canadian) want to learn to speak another language, I have to invest my time and money to learn it. I'm not asking Mexico to pay for my Spanish lessons.
Carolyn Keay

Edition: Final
Story Type: Letter
Length: 129 words
Idnumber: 200907030030 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Sugar, it's hiding in everything you eat.

Today I learned that 4.2g of sugar is the same as 1 teaspoon of sugar. 
The yogurt I love, Olympic, french vanilla has 24g of sugar for 175ml,  or sometimes I buy the blueberry 23g of sugar.
So 175ml is equal to 3/4 cup,
24g of sugar is equal to 5.7 teaspoons!  Isn't that crazy!

I always thought I was picking a healthy yogurt, I don't like the taste of plain yogurt, seems sour to me, but I can't imagine having to add 5-6 teaspoons to a small bowl of yogurt to make it taste better.
I also hate the taste of aspartame or any artificial sweetener, and many yogurts have wheat added so that really limits my choices as well.

In our house we don't add sugar to tea or coffee, we only bring out the sugar bowl when we have visitors.  We do not drink pop, or fruit juice because of the excessive calories.  I know we eat healthier than we did 5 years ago, but I was still surprised to learn how much sugar is hidden in things we eat.   Maybe surprised is not the right word, I do know how to read a nutrition label, I just did not know what 24g of sugar actually amounted to.

Did you know there are 12g or 3 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of Campbells Tomato soup?

So that's the sugar I didn't really know about, I do know, I am addicted to chocolate, but I expect that to have sugar.  The little chocolate Easter Bunny I had yesterday, (OK I had 2) each had 5.2g of sugar, that's 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, seems reasonable for a treat......the soup is not a treat, it should not have sugar, neither should bread, or spaghetti sauce or sports drinks, ......the list is huge!

Here is a link to the show I saw on the Fifth Estate, lots more information here.

Did you know you should limit your daily calories from sugar to 5-10% of your daily consumption of food.  That is approximately 25-50g per day.  (2 bowls of yogurt, or 4 bowls of Campbells soup)

Then there is the bigger, scarier issue, what is all this excessive sugar doing to our bodies over the years, besides making us fat, and diabetic, could it be linked to the rise in rates of Autism or Alzheimer's Disease?  More research has to be done, but guess who refuses to sponsor this type of research.......the food producers who insist on adding the sugar to all our products.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Gluten free Fad

More proof that a gluten free diet is not about getting healthier........I love the last line of this article, “Any time a box needs to convince you the contents are healthful, they’re probably not.”


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Playa Del Carmen, the city that never sleeps

       First of all, you must remember why we come to Playa Del Carmen:

                              white sand, warm water, no water shoes required!

We did our best to pick a nice quiet condo we could spend a month in.  We viewed many condos while we were here last year, and Palmar Del Sol was our best choice.  Ok, we now realize we did not cover all bases, we let them show us a similar condo to the one we rented, and although it looks the same, the sound proofing is so much different.  

Palmar Del Sol has interior condos that do not face 5th Ave that are very quiet, but ours is not one of those.  We do like it during the day, and early evening, we can sit out here on the balcony and watch and listen to the people go by.  We really like having free access to the Las Palapas beach, lounge chairs and a Palapa whenever we choose, no obligation to buy anything from the bar.  Great swimming beach, nice pool area, clean condo, daily maid service, wifi, 24 hr security, right on 5th Ave so we are surrounded by restaurants, stores, we can walk everywhere.

But what if you can't sleep at night?  

We have done our best to sound proof our bedroom, but even with spare mattresses up against the windows, we can hear the younger crowd on their way home from the bars, at 4 or 5 AM.  We can hear all the music from the stores and restaurants below us.  Which is fine during the day, (but I swear they turn it up at night), the Plaza La Fiesta Mexican Outlet store across from our balcony plays Mexican music until 11PM, the restaurant below us, Chez Celine, is busy all day from 7 AM til 11PM with whatever music they choose to play, and then there are all the bars & restaurants within a 2 block radius that you don't really notice until they turn up the tunes, and the sound carries up to our 3rd floor windows. We can hear music and people talking, kids crying, some yelling on and off til 2 or 3 AM. (maybe 4-5AM after the bars close)

Sometimes we sleep through it all to be woken by the garbage trucks at 5AM or so. Then, at aprox 7:45AM a VW beetle drives by blasting loud rock and roll to wake all those who are sleeping, just some kid on the way to work who doesn't want anyone else to sleep in. 

One sunday morning we were treated to the loud music of AC/DC (which is one of my fav's to dance to at night), it was 7:45AM, I was just getting up, (the VW beetle guy doesn't work on Sunday's) I didn't mind this wake up music, but I bet all those you just got home at 4AM were thinking otherwise.  The music was for a 5km fun run called Coloreate, where they throw coloured powder on the runners as they go by 4 stations.

Honestly, it did not look like they were having that much fun,  they were wiping their eyes and coughing a lot, there were some colorful looking dogs that didn't seem to mind though

Colour'ete 5 Km Sunday morning 8AM

We delayed our morning walk until all the racers had gone by, the color in the streets lasted for a couple days, and for even longer on our balcony, even though we scrubbed it several times.
We now realize we must find a condo out of the city in the future, Playa Del Carmen is a fun city for the weekly tourist.  The new development is geared toward a traveller with money to spend, whereas, we are looking for good value for our money to make it last for several months of travel, not just a week or two.  Then there is the fact that we like to sleep at night.

We have talked about not coming back here again next year, maybe we will try Florida........and then we go for a swim.....
............and we are not sure we want to leave at all.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Vino Tinto

Last year I had trouble finding a good glass of Vino Tinto (red wine) in Mexico, this year it has not been a problem.   Note: that I am a strong believer that a good smooth glass of red does not have to cost a lot of money.
I am recording my favourites here, mostly so I don't forget.

Vinos Domecq, Valle De Calafia, B.C.
101 to106 pesos
When I saw the label on this bottle I thought it might be from home, but B.C. does not stand for British Columbia, it is Baja California.  Pacific Coast of Mexico
Angaro, Malbec/Shiraz Argentina, 89 pesos

Santa Ana Malbec, Argentina, 97 pesos
This is one of my fav's at home too, but the label is different.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Staying active is easy in Playa Del Carmen

5th Ave toward 50th street

Daily decisions in Playa Del Carmen:

Where to walk to today? the beach in bare feet or the street with running shoes?

Not only, do we like to be active, we purposely go on vacation to be somewhere warm, so we can be active outside.  Our daily walk usually takes 1.5 to 2 hours, but sometimes we just keep going and don't get back to our condo for 3 hours.

This is Playacar beach, a 30 min walk in the sand, great workout for your legs,  sore feet and calf muscles make it hard to do everyday

Our condo is on 5th Ave and 32nd street.  5th is the pedestrian only road in Playa Del Carmen most of the restaurants and shops are toward the lower numbered streets.  The businesses are slowly expanding down 5th toward 46th street, but is still not as busy down there.  Last year they finished a beautiful pedestrian/ bike road all the way past Paradisus Playa Del Carmen resort to Grand Coral Resort entrance, @ 112 St.  The road has a few cars, joggers, bikes and walkers, but it is not well used.  A few weeks ago, there was a lot of garbage around and we wondered why the government would spend so much money to build this and not maintain it.  Last week there was some clean up done, so maybe they heard us??  Anyway even with all the abandoned looking buildings, and squatter shacks, it still feels safe, so we enjoy walking that way, away from the road noise and busy traffic.  We have walked through the gates to the Grand Coral Resort as well, this would be a good place to bike ride to, wide sidewalks and very few cars.  

We did rent bikes one day, quite inexpensive at 90pesos, but we did not feel safe in traffic (we road over to Playacar) and didn't really work up a sweat on the flat roads.  

view down 5th Ave

Nice new street, but many run down buildings

One side of the street has these shacks, hard to believe people live in them

Many half finished buildings, they look abandoned, but some have people living in them

There are also new buildings and resorts on the same road

We have also found a park 2 blocks away that has some stairs & monkey bars, for pull ups and benches for step ups.
It doesn't look as nice as this photo, very rusty now, but they are ugrading the whole stadium so maybe it will be restored to look like this again.

Then there is our large roof top deck that has a nice breeze (usually) I can use that my "swork it" workout.  (Check out the "swork it app" in the app store, pay the 99cents to make it more useable , totally worth it, a great random work out)  Our use a timer and make up your own workout.

After a variation of all of the above each day, we often walk to the grocery store as well, and carry our food back home, then we really deserve a rest under a Palapa on the beach, maybe a swim in the warm ocean. (more calories burned if you actually swim or jump over the waves for awhile)

It is tiring just reading all of that, but remember we are not just here for a relaxing week in the sun, we are trying to live like we do at home only in the sunshine.  We choose not to join the local gym, due to the cost, and the fact that we would rather be outside anyway.  We have learned al lot from our Personal Trainers at home over the years, hope we make them proud!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Trip Report Playa Del Carmen 2014

Our first 9 days in Playa Del Carmen,  have gone by quickly, it took a few days to settle into our condo, as it is a lot noisier here at night, sucks when you can't sleep!  Our condo is great, otherwise, we solved the noise problem ourselves, as the management had no other room to move us to, and offered no other help.  
We took the 2 mattress' off the beds in the 2nd bedroom and stood them up against the windows in our room, had to stuff a few pillows around them and place a chair against them, but they are now covered by the drapes and the sound is greatly muffled.  Now that we can sleep we quite like it here!
You can check out the details and photos here:

The weather has really improved from a couple weeks ago on Isla Mujeres, we now talk about sweating too much and enjoy sitting in the shade under a Palapa....Yeah, it is a tough life.

Walking down 5th Ave there are many changes.  There are new Hotels being built, a beach front Hyatt, and a large mall on 5th Ave that was only a shell last year, now is a 3 story modern shopping mall, with Victoria's Secret, Forever 21, Nike, Sanborns and much more.  Honestly I don't think it belongs here, but apparently that is the future for Playa Del Carmen.  Progress apparently.  There are many small Mexican stores mixed in on 5th Ave, some across the road from this big mall, some have a new Designer store beside them, it is quite a mix, I do hope the keep some of the mix.

this was the mall Feb 2013
below is part of what it looks like now, Feb 2014

Some of the great restaurants we found last year are still here, some have moved, some have raised there prices.  We are happy that La Tarray still has a great fish fillet for 90 pesos (Huge plate of fish with rice and salad) La Chevre del Chango still has the amaranth crusted chicken stuffed with cottage cheese, but the price went up to 138 pesos, still worth it, but won't order another margarita there as that went up to 100 pesos, crazy!

We are exercising every morning, on our roof top deck, followed by a long walk on the beach or thru town, more later, have to get moving before it gets too hot!...........  

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This is the beautiful beach of Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, we fell in love with this beach when we visited this island for one day last year.  The warm water and white sand reminded us of the islands in the Bahamas.  Nothing but soft white sand under your feet as far as you can walk in the water.  Angel fish swimming around your ankles, so amazing!  

This is the nicest beach on the whole Island of Isla Mujeres (which is quite small only 7KM long), so if gets quite crowded on a sunny weekend.  Obviously, there are many wealthy yacht owners that like to visit!

It is amazing how one beach can look so different day to day.  We have had some days of wind and some with a bit or rain, today we had large waves which is quite unusual for this side of the island, but fun for folks who like to play in the waves.

We have been here for over a week now and we never tire of the view or the sunset!

We have had 5 days of great weather in a row now, it did rain for about an hour today, but under the beach umbrella it was still warm and not worth leaving the beach for a few raindrops!  (although most people did leave)  The weather has not been as good as last year, but when it is, you forget all about the chilly nights and the sweater I had to wear last week!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Today in Isla Mujeres

Hola Amigos,
We have now been in Mexico for 9 nights out of the 7 weeks we plan to be here.  We started out on the Riviera Maya, and arrived on the Beautiful Island of "Isla Mujeres" 2 days ago.

I don't want to complain about the weather, but I want you to know it is not as warm as last year.....and I packed for last year's weather!  One sweater, (that I don't really like), all of my large wraps/scarfs are in a drawer at home (cause I didn't need them last year).  I don't like shopping in Mexico so I just keep hoping that tomorrow will be warmer, but today is cloudy & really windy(35-40Km), not cold (21C) but tonight I will be wearing that sweater again!

I am inside on my computer because I can't find a sheltered place to sit outside right now.  We did go for a 2 hour walk this morning, and I am sure we burned some extra calories taking into account, the wind resistance.  
Yes, enough about the weather, I know it is so much colder at home!

Isla Mujeres is a small Mexican fishing village, friendly people, many who only speak spanish, but so far no problemo!  There are many great restaurants here, and not as many tourists as last year(that could be due to the weather) so competition is fierce to entice customers into their restaurants.  The main "Pedestrian only" road, is called Hidalgo, it is a really nice stroll, through stores and restaurants, all with the usual salesman trying to get you into their establishment.

Prices for food are a bit higher than we remember from Playa Del Carmen last year, because the island is so small and everything except fish is imported.  We have had to increase our daily budget for meals, but we still look for the places off the main road.  

We found a great little place last night, with fresh tuna steak and red snapper fillets, our dinner cost $330 pesos,(about $30 Cdn) they had promised one drink included with each dinner, but gave us 2!  Gotta like that!  We also had shrimp tacos and Chicken Fajitas today at lunch, at a sandy beach restaurant, 280 pesos (Including 2 cervesas and really good guacamole)  My only complaint was the 4 mosquito bites I got (again cause of the lousy weather).

Hope we all have a sunny day tomorrow!

Why are Adult's Only Resorts so expensive?

We just spent 7 nights at the Lovely All inclusive Excellence Riviera Cancun Resort, near Puerto Morales, Mexico.  There really is not much to complain about at this resort, the grounds, rooms, buildings are all very clean, the nicest I have ever seen. No musty smells anywhere. The food & service was always good, sometimes really good. 
view to ocean from one of the many pools

View from our room
There was just something missing though, I think we were expecting "WOW",(because of the price and reviews) and we never felt the "WOW"
We like a happy hour bar, with a view, a fun place to meet new people & enjoy a cocktail before dinner. The only bar like that was the Martini Bar, no view, no music, and a big divider in the center so you could not see people on the other side. The bartenders were slow and often forgot what you ordered, it was just sad. (No Myers Rum or Grey Goose Vodka unless you pay more to be part of the Excellence club)

We like long walks on the Beach, and this was the perfect place for it, walking in the powdery white sand everyday, no need for shoes!  We walked to Puerto Morales one day, about 90mins round trip, but you could go even farther if you wanted.

I also like to swim, but the po
ols are not heated, apparently this is not a problem when it is hot out, but it was very chilly the week we were there, so the pools were very cold, I could not get into that water, too bad because the pools look so inviting. The ocean was warmer, but walking into the water you had to walk through weeds, I hate the icky feeling of weeds around your ankles, it was like that all around this area.

We have been to many AI (All Inclusive) resorts in Mexico, and love the "Adults only" ones, but always wonder why they are so much more expensive? A 5 star AI that has kids at it has to provide extra activities, kid food, and the kids often stay for free, so why wouldn't it be cheaper NOT to have kids at the resort?

The prices online for Excellence start at $500+ US a night, we booked early and paid $348US, seemed like a great deal, but without a fun bar, heated pools, and the "WOW" we were expecting, I think it was overpriced.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Why I write Trip Advisor reviews

A couple days ago I wrote a negative review about a restaurant, on Trip Advisor & Yelp and I mentioned it on my Facebook page.  I did wait until the day after to write it, but my daughter is now questioning why I would so this at all.  She works as a waitress, so that may be part of the reason why she doesn't like to hear about negative restaurant reviews.  She also said "I just don't want people to think you are a grumpy old Hag!" (or words to that effect)

Her point was only that I should not post negative things on Facebook, or on the internet period, she believes we should only post happy, positive stuff on Facebook.  OK, I do agree with this for the most part, I often scroll over negative, or complaining comments, so I will try to remember not to post negative things on Facebook anymore.  In my defence I would never criticize or say anything negative about a friend or specific person on Facebook, I am not a bully or "a grumpy old Hag".

However I don't think I will stop writing reviews.

Years ago, before trip advisor or maybe before I had a computer, (no, I was not alive when the dinosaurs roamed the earth) I used to write letters if I had a complaint about a service or product.  I often received coupons, refunds or discounts and always some kind of written acknowledgement of my concern.  I don't write letters anymore, I send emails or write reviews, often without a response.  I am not a big complainer, I just don't let things slide when I think I have been treated incorrectly, or charged too much money.  (Really I don't complain about everything!)

I believe I am doing this to inform others, as I am always searching the internet for information that others may have to inform me.  So I guess writing reviews is like giving back, I share information with you and you with me.  I find it very helpful when I am searching for a hotel, or a great beach etc.

I truly appreciate the time most people take to share information, it would be great if we could all say only positive things, but nothing is perfect all the time.  All I can do is share my honest opinions and hope others are doing the same.

It is really unfortunate that there are many people writing fake reviews about competitors or just to be mean (who knows). 

This makes reading reviews is a big job, some people go out of their way to find the negative, (Really, I try not to do that)  and some write their reviews before they have had a chance to calm down, or maybe sober up.

So I  weed through all the reviews and find some like minded people, I look at the reviewer's history, and discount all reviews by people who have only written one review.  These are most likely to be fake.  If a reviewer has a long history with many reviews I read several of their reviews, to see if they think like me.  These are the ones I use to help me make my travel decisions.   This can be time consuming, makes you wonder how we managed to take vacations, or find a good restaurant before the internet.......(OMG I'm sounding like a dinosaur again)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

I still love Blue Rodeo, but......

Last night we saw Blue Rodeo live at Prospera Place in Kelowna.  I have seen them before live, in Malkin Bowl, in Stanley Park, that was so good, that we jumped at the chance to see them again here in Kelowna.

Tickets were a very reasonable $69 and that included a copy of their new CD which was mailed to us before Christmas.  There are some good songs on there so we were looking forward to seeing them in concert again.

On the most positive note, I must say that Jim Cuddy's voice is still GREAT!, just love to hear him sing, and we wished they would have just let him sing more.  Instead, they continually added in long instrumental solos, featuring a pianist, an electric guitarist, drummer....and on and on....this is fine to show off each members talent, but in every song?  It was just getting too boring, the music on their albums is not like this, so yes I was disappointed.   The crowd may not have felt the same way as me, they cheered and clapped politely, I guess I just don't appreciate long, ad lib, instrumental solos.  I'd rather hear the song they it was recorded.

The Very best part was the Encore, when Jim Cuddy sang "Trust yourself" and then the group (including his son's band, The Devin Cuddy Band" who were the opening act) sang "Lost Together" ...that was the music I was expecting.   It was obvious, by the reaction of the crowd, that is what everyone wanted to hear.

The worst part was the new songs written by Greg Keelor, all inspired by heartbreak and sadness (yes he told the audience this), this guy really needs some happiness pills!  I am not saying the whole new album is sad but the songs Keelor choose to sing last night were all very sad in too many ways!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Have you heard of this "Dukan Diet"?

Ok, I have few pounds of cookies to loose after Christmas.  Yes, I am blaming my extras pounds on cookies, although I am sure red wine, cheese and a few other goodies could take some blame as well.

So, as usual, I sign back on to myfitnesspal.com and log in my current weight and start recording everything I eat.  This always works for me, something I learned from weight watchers, 15 years ago.  myfitnesspal is free, and easy to use.

I came across this Dukan diet from an ad somewhere, and being curious I had to read about it (you know, maybe hoping it was the next best thing ever!)  It seems a lot like the Atkins diet, high protein, low carbs.  I did try the Atkins diet years ago, I couldn't do it, I just could not function without carbs.  What really caught my eye, is this Dukan Diet mentions your "True Weight" as a goal.
 So aren't you curious what your "True weight" is?

There is a simple online calculator http://www.dukandiet.com/calculate-your-true-weight 
They do ask for your email address, but so far they have not sent me anything, hoping no junk mail follows.

So you put in some info, height, weight, gender, goal weight, wrist size, pregnancies etc.  Then they give you a figure for "True Weight".  Mine was .8 lb over my goal weight.  Interesting........so I did it again and changed my goal weight to 10 lbs less than my first entry.  Now my "True weight" was less, by 3 lbs.  So, I did it a few more times, and each time my "True Weight" changed with whatever goal weight entered.  What good is that?

I am sticking with myfitnesspal, obviously my "true weight" is whatever goal weight I choose.

Do whatever works for you, set an achievable goal, and don't spend any money on a weight loss plan without some research and a reasonable expectation that you can follow the plan you choose.

It's a New Year, it must be time to............

Do you make resolutions each New Year?  I never have, but I often think I can improve something each year, maybe lose some weight (but that is an ongoing process of life, so no point just resolving that at New Years),  maybe a new hobby, or sport or maybe just practice the ones I know.

So here's my plan, (or wish list but I am not calling it a resolution)

  1.  to blog more than last year, (which should be easy, looking at the short list of my 2013 blogs) 
  2.  be a better golfer this year, I look forward to practicing.  
  3.  swim more, I'd like to get back to swimming 20 lengths at a time, I used to be able to do that in 30 minutes (of course that was over 20 years ago), much more practicing required!
  4. sew more, I made a few shirts and dresses this year and I enjoy it, so why don't I do it more often!
  5. paint something, like a big picture for my wall.  I used to paint animals on rocks, and I took painting courses for folk art painting, which is acrylics, and copying someone else's designs.  I am not good at drawing my own stuff, but I am hoping I can come up with a simple painting of my own.  More practice.
  6. continue with bootcamp 2X a week, walking at least 3 times a week.  Maybe do more hiking, up hills instead of just a walk.
  7. volunteer somewhere near home
  8. go kayaking, and paddle boarding 

Apparently, the common theme in my plan involves exercise &"practice", .......I better add in more napping ..........and you were wondering what retired people so with their time!