Soul Centered Success

Freedom Hunting: Fall 2016

December 7, 2016
Fall 2016 life

In an effort to be more organized and grateful in my life, I spend a bit of time every couple of months doing a little family/business & life round up that includes what I learned; what goals I’ve accomplished and the ways I am succeeding in creating my ideal life!

What last month look like for us…

Since the seasons have been changing, November is now genuine Autumn! With both kids in school and me working from home, my new goals are to get the heck out of the house! I am trying to remember that exercise, outdoor time-off and social time actually equates to higher productivity!

+ I went to Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium – sans kids! Yes, that’s right. An adult friend and I spent about an hour strolling through the aquarium on a weekday, marvelling in the dimly lit, peaceful spaces. Honestly, I think I simply drowned out the noise and activity of all the school children. What a wonderful, therapeutic way to spend a morning.

+ Went to Niagara Falls for one night and wow, the hotel whirlpool and sauna made that long drive worth it! I am now hunting for a gym in the city with an awesome pool, sauna and hot tub.

+ Gorgeous November weather allowed us to spend more comfortable time outdoors, taking hikes in the valley near our home and riding our kick scooters at the beach.


In business/self-development….

+ I finished teaching an 8-week Online Entrepreneur session for youth. I love leading these classes and potentially being a decent mentor for youth so I’m always looking for ways to improve the classes. One thing I try to do is incorporate mindfulness group lessons each week that I feel really helps the teens open up and learn to respect each other.

+ Reading: Read some really super, thought-provoking books this month including: A Course in Miracles Made Easy by Alan Cohen and  Thank & Grow Rich:  A 30-Day Experiment in Shameless Gratitude and Unabashed Joy by Pam Grout. I highly recommend both books but must state that not everyone can accept most of these concepts (I have a few friends in mind). Things/information/people mostly appear in our lives when we’re ready to receive them, and grasping the concepts of  ‘A Course in Miracles’ is basically where I’ve evolved to at this point. However, I encourage everyone to give both of these books a read and open up to new possibilities!

Having said all that, I think I am going to take a break from all this reading for a bit and instead work on taking “action” over the next few months!




Family Wellness

Optimal Wellness: Important Random Things I Learned Lately

November 6, 2016
The Dirt Cure

Like any good Gemini, distraction is simply an everyday part of life – I’m just too interested in everything! Ok, I could just be addicted to the Internet, but my stack of books-to-read is equally out of control.

Having said all that, some of the important random things I learned lately:

  1. A must read!
    I recently read the super, uber-recommended, easy-to-read, essential parenting book, The Dirt Cure by Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, a parent and integrative pediatric neurologist who’s worked with and helped heal thousands of very ill children. I suppose I love it so much because I share the similar parenting values – such as avoid antibiotics and any unnecessarily children’s medication (Tylenol, etc.), feed your kids nourishing whole foods and let them get dirty for goodness sakes! It goes far beyond just that and provides examples, research and success stories to turn skeptics into believers. I am an easy convert, but I can just as easily see many of my parent friends gaining a ton of benefit from this book. Actually, for the health of the younger generation, I wish all parents would read it.
  2. We need to stop giving apple juice to our children!
    Have you ever noticed how your kids behave after slurping down a juice box? It took me a minute, but for my five-year-old, the change is almost instant. He becomes super hyper!
    Apple juice raises blood sugar as quick or faster than a can of sugary soda pop. It’s super high in natural sugar and carbohydrates that race to your  liver, instantly spiking blood sugar and insulin. Yes, apples are healthy – when eaten and digested at a natural rate. However because the fructose in the juice is instantly absorbed by our bodies, it apparently becomes more harmful than beneficial to our health. And if that isn’t bad enough, studies have shown too high levels of arsenic and lead in many popular brands – gasp! If your kids are drinking apple juice at parties and pizza lunches, feel better that the combination of food (protein/fat) and juice will help slow the digestion, thus slow the rate of super boosted blood sugar levels. And by the way, I also recently read that maintaining blood sugar is a key to life.
  3. DIY Infared Sauna for Under $100
    Once summer is over, I start dreaming of warmth – of flying down south and of having my very own sauna! You can buy a sauna if you have room in your home (which I don’t) or you can head to the local hardware store and buy some infared heat lights. I love this! Buy one or three, but make sure you also purchase a inexpensive lamp for them (see here) and you can pretty much set up your own infared sauna at home for super cheap. Did I mention all the many health benefits such as pain relief, increases circulation and detoxification? I’m hoping to test this out in the coming months – stay tuned for updates!



Family Travel

Our Weekend in New York with the Kids

October 20, 2016
Bryant Park

In our typical thrifty travel style, my sis and I and our combined four kids recently drove to New York for the weekend. Even with the traffic, the drive took about 8 hours.

Well, truth be told, accommodation for six with parking was too expensive in Manhattan so we actually drove to Union City, New Jersey where we found an Airbnb apartment with parking for $250 Canadian a night. This got us a two bedroom, renovated basement apartment near shops and transit in a very vibrant Cuban/Latin neighbourhood. As you can imagine, this was an adventure in itself! It was like being transplanted much farther south. I swear I had to brush up on my Spanish just to order coffee and croissants at a local cafe.

(Receive $40 Airbnb credit with my coupon code: https://www.airbnb.ca/c/rschwab1)

Taking the ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan

NJ to NY

Although it seems very straightforward on paper, as a visitor, the transit systems in both New Jersey and New York are so confusing! There are many, many options to get around town, thus the dozens and dozens of buses, boats, trains, coaches and taxis all lined up trying to get somewhere.

On our first day, getting into Manhattan was fairly easy. We walked and looked for a bus to take us across the Holland Tunnel, but fortunately hopped on a collectivo (an independent transit system in Union City, New Jersey that is exactly like the one in Mexico. It’s basically a big white van with many seats.). It cost $10 for all of us!

Coming back was a nightmare – one that required getting help from transit staff as we would never have figured out where to go for tickets or the bus! We managed to buy pricey bus tickets at the very busy, very large bus terminal in Manhattan and stood on the bus in traffic and exhaust fumes in the Holland Tunnel for over 30 minutes with all the tired, depressed workers going home. I would never do that again!

The second day, we hopped on our kick scooters and rode to the ferry. So awesome – we effortlessly made it to Manhattan in 10 minutes for about $10 each. We came back this way as well.

Games in Bryant Park

Day 1: Upper Manhattan

What to do in Manhattan with a 5, 7, 12 & 14 year old? Well, touring buildings is mostly out. We did visit the beautiful, stately New York Public Library and if I didn’t have to entertain a  five-year-old, I would have loved to take the free tour. The neighbouring Bryant Park was great for the kids! There were free ‘Board Games in the Park’ – and after all the crazy hustle and bustle of just getting there, this was such a welcome time out. So we played some Chinese Checkers and Jenga.

Since Day 1 was dedicated to seeing Upper Manhattan, we walked north through Times Square and after another much needed time out in Central Park with its very cool kids playground, we eventually made it to the American Museum of Natural History. Very awesome – it would have been even better if everyone wasn’t so knackered from walking in the city all day. What was even more awesome is the fact that this is a pay-what-you-can museum. Since we only had an hour until closing, we paid much less than the suggested fee.

Bubbles in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park – one of my kids’ favorite parts of NY

Manhattan By Kick Scooter

Since we took the ferry to Manhattan, we came out on the Hudson River Greenway, a spacious, two-way bike path that runs along the Hudson River and mostly all around the whole island. This allowed us to whisk south, stopping at various Piers, playing in modern playgrounds on the river, getting snacks and avoiding crowds.

True, travelling along the Greenway is not exactly a tourist thing to do and yes, we did avoid most of what Manhattan has to offer, but it was so refreshing! We went all the way down to Battery Park to take the free Staten Island Ferry over to see the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately it was so rainy and foggy. We opted to eat lunch instead and peer at the statue from a distance.

Then the fun began – the amazing journey back north on our scooters through crowds and more crowds. Oh, did I mention that my sister was on her roller blades? How anyone can roller blade in Manhattan is a mystery. With all those sidewalk bumps and cracks, it simply requires great skill and loads of faith! We went up Broadway, past the very dense Canal St., through Little Italy and finally made it to Washington Square Park. Even in the rain the park was crowded. Someone was playing a Baby Grand piano under an arch, there were giant bubbles for the kids, and a very cool climbing structure that kept everyone entertained. Oh yes, and washrooms.

On our third day, we decided to skip the trek over to New York and stay in New Jersey instead. There was so little green space and not a playground in sight, but a trip to Target and a buffalo mozzarella pizza lunch was an awesome adventure for my crew! Besides, it was raining again.

Visiting the Piers along the Hudson River Greenway

Overall

Manhattan is barely a two-day town. It is so dense, with so much to see and do, but it would have been nice to be more chill. Although it’s a nice town, it helped us realize that the big city we live in is awesome, with so much to explore. Manhattan with kids was a little too crowded and polluted for me. I suppose we’re used to so many more parks and green space.

However, the next time I do visit Manhattan, I am going to stay in Manhattan! Staying in NJ was too stressful – making us feel like we had to go out for the whole day and fit everything in only to commute back in the evenings. I think next time, I will also leave the kids at home!

Family Travel

A Tulum Family Love Affair

April 1, 2016
Pizza in Tulum

Our family travelled to Tulum, the quaint, seemingly boho town in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera for a second year. I say seemingly boho because that’s how it initially appears with its nomadic, yoga-loving, bike riding tourists; its juiceries and cafes and friendly laid back vibe. By venturing deeper, beyond high walls and lush vegetation, at the ocean, is a whole different Tulum. One, that if you have a lot of cash (or US dollars) buys the most coveted hotel rooms, fresh organic Buddha bowls and breakfasts, hand-rolled pasta, luxurious beach club access and occasional celeb sightings.

Tulum

Since we don’t have US dollars and budgeted to stay in Mexico for an entire month, we’re fortunate to have been able to hang out in Tulum, again, even if it was a no frills visit.

Instead of paying to eat and lounge at the beach clubs (le sigh), we accessed the equally gorgeous, yet rustic public beaches with a cooler packed full of tequila and tuna sandwiches; we ate in el pueblo (town), outside of the pricey beach area (and had the greatest pizza!) and shopped often at the local Chedraui, the large grocery store in town. Oh, and we almost always book accommodation via Airbnb.

Quaint, quiet and way less touristy than its neighbour (Playa del Carmen) in the north, we love coming to Tulum to basically chill out and do nothing much else.

Tulum

Happy hour in Tulum

Beach toys

Tulum bikes

Beach parking

Pizza in Tulum

Tulum Beach Tulum

Tulum street art

 

Depending on your budget, there are many options for kid-friendly boutique hotels on the beach, perfect to keep both kids and adults entertained.

Other than spend the day at the beach, some other things to do in or around Tulum with kids:

  1. Mayan Ruins

    When we first visited the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, it was hotter than hot! Since we had about a 20-min walk from the parking lot and then a whole lot of walking through the ancient city, I am so thankful I had a stroller. Actually, it was so hot that I faithfully left the stroller in a random spot and took the boys (ages 4 & 11) down a steeeep staircase to the most gorgeous beach below while hubby checked out the ruins alone. Many families suggest bringing the kids, but aside from all the iguanas, my boys were not all that interested in looking at blocked off, crumbling buildings. The beach was awesome though!
    *there are several Mayan ruin sites throughout the area and I have read many positive reviews about visiting with small children. I would suggest reading Trip Advisor reviews for good family options and tips.

  2. Swimming in Cenotes

    Cenotes are natural sinkholes that are scattered throughout the Mayan Riviera. There are thousands actually – some underground in caves and some open, above ground. After seeing all the gorgeous photos of cenotes in the Mayan Riviera, it was a bucket list item of mine to experience the beauty! The reality however is that the most popular cenotes are not best for young children as they can be very cold, crowded and the trek is often slippery. For some reason, my family didn’t love the idea of swimming in a cave (dark water, snakes, mosquitos, spiders, etc) however on our next trip, I’m planning day trips to open cenotes! Stay tuned for an update.
    *There are so many great cenotes for families to visit. See this great guide here: http://annaeverywhere.com/best-cenotes-tulum/.

  3. Stroll around El Pueblo

    Like all resort towns in the Mayan Riviera, we’ve never had an issue with safety. In the main area of Tulum, there are shops and boutiques, restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops and pharmacies. It’s lively, colorful and friendly! The town is a great place to have lunch and drinks, browse souvenir shops and buy ice cream. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to find a decent playground for the kids.

We’d love to hear about your ~ off-the-beaten-path ~ experience with kids in Tulum! Leave a comment below.