Embracing February

February is never an easy month for me.  I am ready for spring………. well quite honestly, ready for summer.  I am a summer woman.  I love the heat, love the sun and really don’t mind humidity.  Winter takes more work to stay balanced and positive.  I intend to do it, though.  Every year I stop wearing socks in February, bring sandals to the office, ignore my sweaters, and wear my spring clothes with my big red coat over them. Big shawls and furry winter boots help because the older I get, the more I feel the cold.

Red Coat
An outing with my awesome daughters

Yesterday was one of those challenging February days – the morning started out well – waking up without an alarm clock, writing in my gratitude journal, yoga stretches for my lower back, and a walk to work that includes a challenging incline that leaves me exhilarated.  My office is now only 500 metres from home eliminating public transit but also my 40 minute walk.  I decided that I need that walk so I am taking advantage of my awesome neighbourhood.

Lee Street
Feels like walking a mountain

A little pampering goes a long way.  If you have a health insurance plan that allows for massage therapy, acupuncture or any other healing therapy, I strongly urge you to take advantage.  For those who don’t, I recommend schools for Registered Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Estheticians, Hair Stylists and more.   The prices are extremely low in comparison and the treatments usually take longer therefore giving you a little extra pampering time. I have been taking advantage of our beauty schools for almost a decade.  Colour, cut and blow dry for around $30.  A simple wash and blow dry is only $10. Pampering on a budget for sure.

This week I visited my favourite manicurist for the best pedicure EVER.  I have been going to Mary for Manicures and Pedicures for about 9 years.  She changed locations in the Beaches3 times and I along with many others have followed her.  A pedicure with Mary compares favourably to any high end treatment.  She puts her all into her work and has a thriving clientele.  She knows I am having trouble with my knee and really spends extra time on the massage.  You can ask for extra massage and pay only $1 per minute at many salons in Toronto.  I really recommend finding someone you like and becoming a regular customer rather than just dropping in.   A mani/pedi at the many salons in Toronto are usually on $35.  It is just one of the luxuries that I give myself every 4-6 weeks when possible – for me, it is definitely living life abundantly.  You can find Mary at Professional Nail and Spa, 2221 Queen Street East, Toronto, Ontario, 416-694-4111.  Tell her Sandra sent you. (this is not a paid commercial just friends sharing great ideas)

Admittedly I am not a person who loves exercise and I really cannot motivate myself to join a class or go to a gym.  I really do enjoy getting out to a pool and I am fortunate to have one only a few kilometres away.  We are so blessed in Toronto to have community pools in every neighbourhood.  Lane swims are very reasonably priced and leisure swims are free across the city. Spending 30 – 60 minutes moving about in the pool really is a great attitude adjustment.

Stiff joints always feel worse in the winter (at least for me) and I have been faithfully doing yoga stretches for the past 2 weeks every morning.  What a difference it makes! I am concentrating on the lower back, sciatic area, hips as well as neck and shoulders.  I really appreciate the videos by Psyche Truth on YouTube.  I am really blown away by the difference I am feeling this week after being consistent.

Here are a few youtube videos that I really like but I find I need to try a variety to keep it interesting.

How To Yoga Stretches for Low Back Pain & Sciatica Relief by Jen Hilman


Neck Stretch Exercises For Pain, Tension & Stress Relief, Jen Hilman


Stretches for Back Pain Relief, How to Stretch Routine, Beginners Home Yoga


Yoga Workout | Low Back Pain Stretches Routine, How To for Beginners, Total Wellness Austin


For years I went to tanning salons in the winter for the tan and for the warmth and the light.  It really worked for me but I don’t recommend this.  The dangers’ of tanning beds outweighs the benefits, in my opinion.  I have never tried sun lamps to help with the lack of sunshine but it might be a great idea.  I take my Vitamin D every day, get outside for a walk and dream of summer sun.

Tulips on the table

Spring tulips on a table, visits to a garden conservatory, green house, butterfly conservatory, art gallery, museum or even a night in a local hotel ( look for great deals online).  Take a drive on a bright sunny day to a neighbouring town – visit a Farmer’s Market, Antique Shops and more.  Don’t have a car?  Rent one for the day, hop on the Go Train but get a change of scene this month.   I once spent an adventurous day at Ikea during a blizzard.  Travelled there by subway (had to change trains 3 times) and we were among the very, very, very few shoppers.  We ate in their restaurant and the staff were offering us samples of different foods since there were only 2 other customers.  It was a full day outing and I think all I bought were some bright yellow candles to go with my February tulips.

What are your secrets for a great February?

Staycation: That Hometown Advantage

IMG_20150404_114743I spent the last few months wondering where I wanted to go for a vacation this year.  Spending May in France and Greece last year was one of my best vacation experiences.  I loved the scenery, the food, the sea, the warm weather and the new experiences.  I also loved visiting with great friends that made me feel wanted and welcomed….best feeling EVER!!!  So how do I match that?  Go back…do it again….maybe explore new areas.  Should I go somewhere where the weather will be hot and spend my days swimming by the sea like Cuba or Mexico? I even considered a summer holiday in the Atlantic provinces where I grew up.  I haven’t been back in the summer for over 15 years but I remember the beautiful beaches…Parlee Beach especially and the wharf at ……fried clams and juicy lobsters eaten at a picnic table on newspapers…..endless walking along the seashore, bonfires on the sand………..delicious memories but I want to share these with my daughters so I am going to postpone my walk down Memory Lane for at least another year.

I am a traveller and I believe that every trip adds to who we are and changes us (me) in some way.  I was a Travel Agent and actually taught Travel and Tourism for many years  in colleges.  I travelled as an agent, as a tour guide, as an activist, and as a tourist.  I have been to many Caribbean Islands….Jamaica, Dominican Republic, St. Johns, Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico and to the Bahamas.  I have taken several cruises (actually managed a cruising agency in the 80’s).  I lived for two years in Haifa and spent much time in my beloved Palestine with 2 trips to Gaza.  I have visited Jordan and Egypt, Turkey, Greece, The Netherlands, France, Portugal and England.  I am sooooooooo lucky!!

And then I started to think about Ontario….maybe a cottage by a small, warm lake? Hmmmmm, or maybe Toronto, my hometown.  I live near a large and fabulous lake that looks like an ocean.  I have only a 15 minute walk to the boardwalk and let’s face it…I live in an awesome city with countless opportunities that I just never seem to get around to enjoying.   I do walk along the beach often and last summer really took advantage of the olympic sized pool that is practically in my backyard.  Last summer I walked a different route there and back each day…enjoying all the little streets and alleyways that make up this Toronto neighbourhood we call The Beach.  Yup…I want a staycation and I want to spend it with friends and family.  To start I have been making lists of places, of activities and of friends and as that list grew longer and longer, I realized it is more than a 2 week vacation but also countless weekends that can and should start today.

I intend to take lots of photos and share this world class city that I live and work in and I think it will be as incredible as any “away” destination.  I can tell you about great food that I discover in restaurants, specialty shops and markets.  I hope that you will share your own experiences and add to my list of possibilities.

So here is my “wanna do” list………….some things I have done and want to experience again…..

  • Turkish experience day – all things Turkey – coffee, shops, and pide for lunch and kebobs for dinner
  • French Day – Cafe au lait with croissants in a French cafe, picnic of cheeses, bread and sausage with a red checkered table cloth
  • Pig Roast at Bairrada Churrasqueira in Little Portugal
  • All you can eat grilled fish ($24.95) at Lisbon by Night
  • Greektown for an afternoon stroll eating spanikopita and a cold drink with appetizers on a patio.
  • Toronto Island for a day or an overnight.  The Bed and Breakfasts look spectacular and can be booked on AirBnB or Torontoisland.org
  • Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)  – best value is on Fridays after 4:30pm for only $10
  • Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) – Wednesday evenings from 6pm – 830pm are Free
  • Rouge Park – Hiking, Camping and a Sandy Beach and close to the city.
  • Rent a car for the day and just drive – Zipcar gives a free membership for use Monday to Friday.  Cars2Go gives out free memberships at many events around the city.
  • Wing joint for wings and beer on a patio
  • St. Lawrence Market any and everyday of the week but it is recommended to go early on Saturday morning
  • Allen Gardens – botanical garden in the heart of the city and open every day of the week and it is free

Outside the city

  • Theatre in Stratford on the Avon River, Ontario
  • Sunfest, London, Ontario, July 9-12, 2015  ( 20 years of amazing world music and I have rarely missed a year)
  • A wine tour or theatre in Niagara on the Lake
  • Wasaga Beach – never been but everyone talks about it…..should I go?
  • Port Stanley, Ontario – this is a beach on Lake Erie – so close to London and I spent many a summer day there
  • Sparta, Ontario – a Quaker town that was established in the early 1800’s.
  • Grand Bend in Ontario on Lake Huron
  • Goderich, Ontario

Now all we need is some warm weather, bright sunny skies…………..looking forward to hearing more ideas and places that you love.

happy summering,