Joseph and Julian,

Sandra Ruch was so friendly and professional. We wanted a Jewish ceremony with some elements added in from our Greek/Egyptian heritage – Sandra helped us blend all these elements elegantly. She provided us with great templates and guided us through creating the ceremony. During the ceremony she was so friendly and spoke with warmth and gravitas. It was a great, easy and a positive experience. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Joseph and Julian, December 2019 venue Jam Factory, Toronto

Finding My Way at Christmas

The holidays loom ahead for many.  I totally understand this and I remember the first Christmas after my divorce.  We had agreed that the children would spend it with their Dad – Christmas eve until Boxing Day.  I remember how we both spent too much money on presents that year.

I had already celebrated Chanukah for 8 days with my daughters.  I had invited people over for a latke dinner. I gave the girls a little gift each night and we lit the candles.  It didn’t compete with the Christmas hype but it was a tradition that I was determined to grow in my home. I decided that I would no longer celebrate Christmas.  I was going to leave Christmas and all the traditions with their father. We had always celebrated both Jewish and Christian holidays in our home. In my house, we would only have Jewish traditions. I had to learn to accept that and let the rest go.

Light the Chanukah lights

I was genuinely tired – working full-time as a retail manager in a large chain store and raising two young children.  I had custody and their father had them every other Thursday and every other weekend. Those Christmas breaks were times when I could just be at home with only myself to think of.  The world around was closed and there was no where I had to go. I wanted to eat turkey so I bought delicious turkey wings, sweet potatoes, green beans and whatever else caught my fancy.  A simple meal cooked in a roasting pan. I watched Christmas movies on tv, walked our dog and really rested.  

Home cooked 1 pan chicken roast. Dinner for one,

Over the years, sometimes others were around but I always kept Christmas day as low key as possible.  35 years later, it has become a tradition, my tradition……..I am at home, I am alone and I am delighting in my own company and indulging myself in rest and relaxation.  It feels holy and sacred and it is mine.

I moved to London at 20 years old with my new husband.  My brother was in university there when we arrived but left for good just a few months later.  We made new friends through our work and we celebrated every holiday Jewish and Christian. We invited new friends for meals and we were happy with whoever came.  We made our own traditions and this continued to be my way long after we divorced. I never felt cheated that we didn’t have family or whatever else people say is missing.  I, we, made the best with what we had. 

Great words to live by

I encourage people to do the same – gather up other holiday orphans and celebrate.  Maybe everyone is busy on Christmas day so have a dinner on a different day. Create your own traditions or like me celebrate you!  My own children still celebrate Christmas with their partners and with their in-laws as well as their father. Chanukah this year fell over the busy days of Christmas so we celebrated Chanukah early.  A gathering with people who love you anytime is more than enough for me. Like we say at Passover, Dayenu – it is enough. No matter what you do- be kind and patient with you. You deserve it.

Tell it to me like a story

Caroline Boye was my best friend. She died on December 14, 2010. Caroline and I spoke every day on the phone for many years. She would say, “tell it to me like a story” and I would then tell her all about my day.  Caroline was my greatest champion. She believed I could do anything. I believe she was pivotal in who I am today. Caroline would be very pleased if she were here today.  

Caroline grew up in Kingston, Ontario.  I never knew her age but I suspect she was 20 years older than me. Her parents were lovely – I met them a few times but I knew them through the eyes of Caroline’s daughter, Wade.  Wade adored her grandparents, Blanche and Lester (Nana & Poppy).  They were solid and “normal”. Caroline must have really surprised them when she left for Mexico after graduation to study and become a flamenco dancer.  She was beautiful. She looked like Elizabeth Taylor.

I met Caroline in the early 90’s.  I had just started selling African clothing and crafts with my Sudanese husband, Hassan. I was selling in outdoor markets and from my home.  Caroline called me one day and she wanted to see what I had. She was opening a consignment store for plus size women and wanted some pieces to accent the store.  She bought a piece of mudcloth from me and had it made into this beautiful piece.

Mud cloth transformed to a duster

Caroline brought adventure and fun and beauty into my life when times were pretty tough.  She took me to restaurants that I could not have afforded. She would have me drive her to Detroit or Buffalo for shopping adventures.  She would pay the gas, lunch and usually a little treat. She would shop all the plus size stores, the wig shops and more. Once she asked me to paint 2 unfinished canes with an African motif.  I had never painted anything in my life but she believed I could and I did and they were great. She used them as a prop in her shop. She encouraged me to be a plus size model.

Her daughter wrote her obituary, “Caroline will be remembered as a vibrant, eccentric person, known for loving all things cultural and beautiful “over the top“ jewellery, make-up, nails, and knock-out wardrobe, especially animal print. With this in mind, please honor her memory by dawning something of this style to her memorial service”.  I wore a wig in her honour. Caroline had many wigs and wore a different one every day.

Caroline dressed me.  She pushed my limits and she made me feel beautiful.  Caroline believed voluptuous, full figure were beautiful – she wanted us to dress with big jewellery and colourful, flowy clothes.  She inspired so many women. Her store was more than a place for clothing. Womyn came in to shop but stayed to talk. Caroline suffered with depression and was not able to work from time to time.  She would hand her store over to another woman who was between jobs. Once it was my sister – another time it was me. We grew in this store and we found the willpower to recreate and go back into the “real” world. Her store was magick.  Caroline was magick.

Caroline also taught me so much about spirituality. She introduced me to her guru -known as the blue man. His name was Christopher. Christopher travelled around North America teaching chanting, tuning fork healing, healthy eating, sexual healing and more. Caroline told me she knew him first in her dreams. His teachings helped me to develop as a healer. At my ordination this summer I felt Caroline’s presence and I remembered Christopher.

I have many good friends today.  I am blessed. I will miss Caroline forever – “tell it to me like a story”.  She inspired this website and my calling to inspire women to live life large. Tell me about your best friend and tell it to me like a story.

How to be Organized

Once again I draw on that old saying – do what you love and you will never work another day in your life. I love organizing. It’s my passion. I could do it everyday, all day and always feel satisfied. Although I might get physically tired, my mind is happily racing away with ideas and opportunities for organizing.

Recently someone asked me what approach I use to organizing a home or other space. I have so much respect for Marie Kondo and her gentle, simple approach. Mine is similar but slightly different. I do prefer to tackle one room at a time. The categories are similar – clothing, paper, books and magazines, toys,etc and miscellaneous. In the kitchen I like to empty everything out and start from scratch putting everything back and keeping categories together. It’s important to have a map of where everything will go. I am convinced that the process must be led by you- the client – your pace and your standards. I can’t make that decision for you.

Marie Kondo says to keep what gives you joy and give away what doesn’t. She tells us to thank things that we are sending away for the value they gave us. I love it!! The point is if you think you need 10 mixing bowls and I think you need 2 – the decision always has to be yours. This is your space and your precious belongings. I honestly respect that and we have to work together as a team. You, however, always have the final say.

I am also committed to reusing, repurposing, recycling and keeping as much as we can out of landfill sites. We owe this to ourselves, our children and our planet.

Getting to Know Puerto Penasco, Mexico

This adventure of mine starts in Puerto Penasco – also known as Rocky Point, Mexico.  It is a border town and located about 4 hours from Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.  It is referred to as Phoenix’s beach.  The town is full of people from Arizona.  It is a desert situated on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.  I guess that makes it an oasis.  I remember learning about deserts and oases (had to google the plural form) in grade 4.  I can actually picture my drawing of an oasis in my notebook. 

I am here on a work exchange – room and board in exchange for helping with the family’s AirBnb business.  I am responsible for some online editing and some property management.  My exchange is with the sister of a close friend of mine in Canada.   

I arrived here in mid November – the same weekend as the famous Rocky Point Bike Rally.  During the rally the population almost doubles with over 10,000 bikes and 60,000 tourists I am told.  My host and I were selling tequila with a friend of hers to raise money for a children’s charity.  I made a few new friends and also heard lots of rock music. This is the beginning of the winter or off season.  The water is cooling down and only the bravest are swimming now.

The weather is not hot but it is also not humid and the sun is bright and warms up the air every afternoon. The temperature is usually in the mid twenties in the afternoon and night lows around 10 celcius.   There are small trees with bright and beautiful flowers but a lot of this town dusty, dirty and impoverished.  It is the reality of a Mexican border town.

There a few very posh developments here with huge homes that are mostly owned by Americans.  There are condominium developments too.  I attended a brunch that was a fundraising event in one of those areas – about 75 mostly American women paying $20 USD for brunch and bidding on silent auction items and raffles to raise money for a women’s shelter in Puerto Penasco. One item went for over $600.

I am living in the old part of the town on a dusty unpaved road that leads to the beach. The street is about 1.5 kilometres long. I make this walk a few times a day often bringing the family dog, Cilantro.  There are many dogs in every house and they come out to greet me as I walk – barking loudly and running towards me.  Many, many Chihuahuas. Actually one of my new friends adopted a little one before returning to the states.  Meet Lara.

Often Cilantro (the house dog where I am staying, will block the barking neighbour dogs from getting to me or distract them.  He is such a sweet, quiet fellow – I love him.  The only time I hear him bark is when a stranger is around the property at night and he also howls at the whistle of the train as it crosses through the town around 2a.m. every night.  A- woooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There isn’t much to do here especially in the off-season.  There are a few bars, many restaurants, an American legion and not much else.  I don’t enjoy spending time in bars and I am not one to eat out that often.  That is for both financial and health reasons.  I heard there is a bingo game in a bar somewhere. (not interested in that either).  I was thinking of volunteering to tutor English in the women’s shelter but now I am leaving early so I won’t be able to.

I’ve eaten out only a few times.  This week I had the enormous Wednesday special at the German KaufeeHaus.  It was very good – salad, ham steak on a bed of creamy sauerkraut, a German sausage and meatball with a big helping of mashed potatoes along with two thick slices of homemade rye bread twith sage in it.  Too much food but the change I needed from Mexican cuisine and my own home cooking.  The price was a very reasonable 165 pesos which is less than $10 in both US and Canadian currency.  They have a huge breakfast menu as well with so many kinds of omelettes. It would take you an hour to choose one, I think.

Bryan’s Sports Bar is another popular place that has specials on different days and on Thursday there is a pasta special and a drink for $5 USD.  I ate there on my first night in town.  We arrived at 9pm and went directly to Bryan’s for a quick meal.  I had linguine and shrimp in an Alfredo sauce. Yummmm. This  is a shrimp town and shrimp is easy to find and will run you about 100 pesos for a half kilo.  It’s fresh and big and absolutely delicious.  I cooked some the first week I was here and promise to do that a few more times before I leave.

There are several big, luxurious hotels in town but I honestly have not been to any so I am not able to give an opinion.  There are many AirBnb listings and I have been helping with 10 of them.  I really can recommend the properties owned and operated by my hosts Rita and Tommy.  They are clean and well kept and offer good value for your $$$.  Check out the many options on AirBnb or on the website Welcome to Go2 Rocky Point or click  here.

How to Discover a New Town

I’ve been in Puerta Penasco for over 2 weeks .  It’s time for me to discover this town – figure out on my own how to get around and how to direct our guests in the AirBnb properties.

I’ve gone on several walks in a variety of directions (don’t ask how far I get) but I now have a much better sense of where I am and where many of the main streets are.  I started driving this past weekend.  In Mexico you can purchase a car insurance on your driver’s licence for $90 USD that gives you liability insurance on any vehicle that you drive.

Walking to town

This isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve worked and lived in Greece and Israel/Palestine. I’ve had to learn my way around Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank.  Also in Greece in Athens, Pireaus, Aghios Nickolas and other places on the island of Crete.  I often travel on my own with poor language skills.  It’s an adventure that I truly love.

So now here I am in Mexico – in this small town of Puerta Penasco with a population of just over 60,000. Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, is a Mexican fishing and resort city on the Sea of Cortez. It’s known for the dune-backed Sandy Beach and Bahía la Choya’s tidal pools.  Neither of which I have seen yet.  I am looking forward to whale and dolphin watching.

For the past week, I’ve walked to the beach about a kilometre from the house and from there a little to the left and the right along the sand. The rest of the time I have been in a vehicle with someone else driving and it’s really hard for me to get a sense of where we’re going.  I have to go on my own and get lost a few times. I don’t have data on my mobile phone so I need to get directions for where I am going before I leave the house.  I now have a little tourist map in my bag. 

How do you discover a new environment?

Cleaning Chemical-Free

Full disclosure – my Enjo representative is also one of my very best friends.  She is honest and Enjo is her first foray into the world of business.  Next full disclosure – I am frugal (some may say cheap), committed to taking care of the environment, super sensitive to yucky chemicals and known in many circles as a clean freak.

Yolanda Tomaszewski
Yolanda T.

 

 

 

 

 

The Enjo products are not cheap but they really work and they have value for your buck. They last …and last…..and last. They are good to our planet.

This week Yolanda left me a small portion of the Enjo Marble Paste to try around my house.  It was really just a few crumbs in a tiny container.  She also left the Enjo Kitchen Scrub.

Kitchen Scrub

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to try it on my silver collection. Yowza!  It really worked and it worked quickly.  My silver was really tarnished and I had been ignoring it for several months.  I decided I wanted it back on display and looking fine!  It took me less than a half hour to polish everything with no scrubbing or hard rubbing and no smelly chemicals.

Before

After

I wanted to experiment so I tried the paste with a kitchen sponge and also with a micofibre cloth.  It still removed tarnish with the Enjo Marble Paste but not with the ease and success of the Enjo Kitchen Scrub and Enjo Marble Paste.  I don’t understand those Enjo fibres but they work!!  They work on tarnished silver, on cleaning your dirty oven, your  greasy pots, your floors, your windows and more.

I’m hooked.  I am a believer.

2 thumbs up.  For more information check out Yolanda Tomaszewski’s FaceBook page or email her at ytomaszewski@enjo.ca