Antigua has come to be one of my favourite places in the world. It’s a beautiful, friendly city that will leave a mark on your heart. There are a lot of options when it comes to entertainment, and for the most part, its a very safe place to be. Seriously, just don’t carry your passport, large sums of money, or travel down dark alleyways at night, and you really should be just fine.
I’ve travelled to Antigua twice now, and I’m preparing for a third trip in the spring. I’ve gone as a medical volunteer and really enjoyed the experience both times. If you’re interested, I volunteered through International Volunteer Headquarters. If you ever decide to try it for yourself, you can enter the code A4872 and you’ll get a 10% discount!
In no particular order, here are a few things you can do in and around Antigua that I’ve done and really loved.
If you’re a fan of chocolate (who isn’t?) you might be interested in taking the chocolate class at the Choco Museo. We learned all about where chocolate actually comes from, it’s history, and how to actually make it. You get to try shelling, roasting, and grinding cacao beans into a paste, and making it into various things. I think my favourite was the Guatemalan hot chocolate. SO creamy and delicious.
At the end, you can create your own chocolates, adding whatever you like to them, pouring them into moulds and setting them. You get to take these home at the end, if you don’t devour it all right away.
The building where this takes place is also a little museum, has a couple of little shops in it, and has a restaurant. The pizza is pretty good, in case you’re hungry!
2. Explore the City.
Honestly, this is the thing we always spend the most time doing. The city itself is absolutely stunning. There are a ton of places to see. Where should you go? I’ll give you a list of a few good places but really, just go get lost. It’s great. You never know what you’ll find.
Some of my favourite places around Antigua are:
- Cerro De La Cruz – It’s a bit of a hike but it’s worth it! There will be tuk tuks driving up, if you want to do that, or just take the path.
- Mercado de Artesanias – Lots and lots of local artisans. Many selling the same old same old but you may find some cool souvenirs. Make sure your money is in Quetzals and not American, and I’d advise against using your credit cards here. There is another market right next door to this, that sells literally anything from knock off hand bags, to lace undies, to pineapples. It’s a pretty cool place to explore. All of this is directly beside the bus stop, so if you want to go see the infamous Chicken Busses in action, that’s where they stop to pick up passengers.
- Convento de Capuchinas – A convent that was built in the built in 1736 and was ruined in earthquakes in 1751 and after. You pay to get in (minimal fee) and you can walk around. It’s pretty cool to see.
- Arco de Santa Catalina – This is the iconic arc that you see on almost any photo of Antigua. It’s actually a way for the nuns (I think) to get across the road to ring the bells. This area is really busy with tourists and street vendors and performers. Weekend nights there are usually a ton of things going on here. There isn’t any traffic allowed down at this time so you can walk. Just make sure to be smart about your personal belongings. There are a ton of great little shops around this area as well, they are boutique shops so you’ll see prices MUCH higher than at the markets, but the quality is also better for the most part. Lots of good restaurants here too.
- Parque Central – During the day this park is a hoppin spot. There are a ton of good coffee shops and restaurants around this area, and you can sit in the park and people watch too. I would avoid this place at night.
I think this might have been one of the coolest places I’ve ever been…but I’m a pretty big Lord of the Rings fan. It’s an eco lodge up in the mountains outside of Antigua. If you’ve taken a walk up to Cerro de la Cruz, you’d have walked past the little shop that you can book your drive up. It’s right across the road from a little soccer field, on the way up the hill to the trail.
I THINK you can only go up and fully tour the place on sundays. The first time we went in, we tried to book for an afternoon, but the little hobbit houses are rented out during the week, and only open to the public on sundays. So we booked a trip up on a sunday.
You have to take a shuttle up the mountain to the base parking lot. When you get there, you can wait for the truck to take you up the last leg. I want to emphasize how difficult the treck up the mountain was. When I went there, my Spanish was lacking and the guy in the parking lot that was in charge of shuttles didn’t speak a word of English so I took his sign language directions and we walked up the hill. It. Is. STEEP. And because you’re so high up (as in, in the clouds), it’s not so easy to breathe. Anyway, we made it, but we figured out on the walk that if we had waited we could have gotten a lift.
There are a few little cottages built into the mountain side, made to look like hobbit houses. You can actually rent and stay in them. Someday I’m going to do that. They have little activity places to play games, a rope swing out over a ledge, and lots of trails to explore high above the villages below.
They’ve got a bar, restaurant, and live entertainment as well. We sat and enjoyed a drink and the music for a while before we went back to the city.
4. Take a Coffee Plantation Tour.
If you walk around the city at all, you’ll see travel agencies everywhere. If you want to book a tour (or even a shuttle) anywhere, just shop around for prices and pick which one you’d like to do. Many times you can find a better price this way.
We booked a coffee plantation tour on a weekend after our volunteer time was done. We went to a Plantation just on the outskirts of Antigua called Filadelfia Coffee Plantation. You get to go on a pretty cool tour and learn how they grow and pick coffee, and then see where they process it and then roast it, then you get a cup of coffee and you can do some shopping in their little shop or stay and go to the cafe. It was a pretty cool experience.
5. Book a Tour of Pacaya Volcano.
Again, shop around and find a tour you want to take. We were able to actually do this tour on a weeknight, leaving in the afternoon and returning after dark. It was great. I went into it knowing I was NOT hiking up that puppy. I had read that there are local kids at the bottom of the hill selling walking sticks and horses. If you don’t rent a horse, they’re going to follow you up the mountain anyway until you eventually give up and can’t go any farther. I opted to ride from the start because I love riding horses and I never get a chance to…and theres no way I’d make it up the mountain on foot at that altitude. My horse was named Tequila. Which was not overly reassuring, but she was a good horse and for a mere 150Q, her little family took home some money. Win win in my books.
The view from the top is incredible, and you can usually see lava coming down the side of the volcano. It was my first time seeing lava that close (or at all actually). After a stop for a rest and photos, you hike down closer to the base of the volcano (not on horseback), and you can cross the lava field and roast a marshmallow on a vent that goes down into the lava about 50 feet underground. Pretty cool!
I opted to walk down the mountain to our shuttle, which wasn’t as far as the trip up, but it was a little slippery, so watch out for that. Our shoes were covered in dust when we were finished. Our guide stopped to show us the best places for sunset photos.
Quite possibly my favourite thing about Antigua…the food. You can find just about anything to eat, and it’s all at a pretty low price. There are so many great restaurants to choose from, it’s like you’d never try them all in one trip. I wrote about my favourites in another blog post, if you’re interested, you can read it here.
Educated by Tara Westover was the title that our book club read for January. I’m no expert on book club (at all), but I thought I’d share the questions and discussion topics we used to lead our talk about the book.
If you haven’t read Educated, I highly recommend it. I awarded it 5 stars on my Goodreads account. Maybe not for the most expertly written book, but for the story and how it impacted me personally.
- What was your overall impression of the book? How many stars did you or would you award it out of 5?
- What are your thoughts on Tara’s father? Did you like or dislike him? Did that change throughout the story?
- How did you feel about Tara’s mother? Did you feel that her mother stood up for her enough? Do you think this was impacted by Tara being the youngest?
- How do you feel that things would have worked out for Tara if she hadn’t developed a relationship with her brother Tyler? He is credited for introducing her to music and learning. Do you think she would be where she is today without him?
- What frustrated you the most about what took place throughout the story?
- While going to college, Tara took psychology classes, which gave her a deeper insight to her own life. What do you think about Tara’s realization that her father was suffering from a severe mental illness? Do you think it effected how she managed her relationship with him after?
- How do you feel that the telling of this story may have impacted Tara’s real family?
*This blog post contains affiliate links.
I used to make cupcakes and sell them locally. My chocolate cupcakes were by far the favourite of most of my customers, and they were the easiest for me to make. Why? Because I may or may not have memorized the recipe, so writing it down should be easy.
There are going to be a couple things you’re just going to have to trust me on. Just do them. I promise, your cupcakes will not be harmed.
This recipe halves really well too! Making about 15 cupcakes.
Yield: approximately 30 cupcakes.
- 2 Cups White Sugar
- 1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 3/4 Cup of Cocoa
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Soda
- 1 Teaspoon of Salt
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Cup of Milk
- 1 Teaspoon of White Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup of Vegetable Oil
- 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cup of Hot Coffee
Heat the oven to 350 F. Line your muffin tins with papers. I use jumbo papers, so they don’t stick to my muffin tins.
In a large bowl, use a sifter and mix the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I use a sifter to make sure everything is lump-free. This recipe doesn’t really take well to having any lumps. Your batter will be super thin, so it’s not really helpful to have lumps of cocoa, and not a nice surprise to bite into.
Take your cup of milk, and add the teaspoon of vinegar to sour it. Trust me.
In a mixing bowl, like a Kitchen Aid (you can also use a hand mixer no problem), add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and beat them together.
Get your hot coffee ready. I usually brew a cup of coffee from my Keurig in to a measuring cup, and then dump out any excess.
Alternate adding dry ingredients and coffee to the egg mixture until it is all well incorporated. Scrape the edges as necessary. Your batter is going to be really thing. It’s supposed to be, don’t worry.
Fill your cupcake liners 1/2-2/3 full. I like using this measuring tool, it makes sure that I get a batch of even cupcakes.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick will come out clean.
Cool them before frosting.
*This post contains affiliate links.
We see a marriage counsellor.
Wait! Did she just say marriage counsellor?! Holy, they must be in hot water! People don’t talk about that! Sheesh!
Well, maybe they SHOULD talk about it! HELLO! The divorce rate is HUGE, people aren’t even bothered to get married at all, and people are still staying in unhappy marriages ‘for the kids’ (which by the way, is NOT helpful to your kids, but that’s a whole other story).
If people did talk about it, about normalizing the idea that it’s okay to get help, that wanting more for your marriage is a good thing, maybe we could be happier humans. If we could possibly be happy in our marriages, how great would that be?!
People talk about ending the mental health stigma all the time, but no one talks about this. This is important! Working on yourself and your marriage is important work and NO ONE EVER TALKS ABOUT IT!
So, true to my oversharing self, I’m of course going to talk about it.
Wow. 6 years is a long time to be unhappy, mad, resentful, and grumpy towards someone. Especially someone you love, or at least did at one time. If I were angry with one of my friends for 6 years, we definitely wouldn’t be friends anymore.
Anyway, we have always talked about how we could go see someone to help us figure out how to make our lives run a little bit smoother. To help us with our communication that we all, as a human race, are so good at these days. *Insert sarcastic eyeroll*
Finally, in May 2019, I figured it was time to actually do that, instead of just talk about it. It’s covered under our health plan, so why not? I booked us an initial appointment.
Man, was I nervous. I had it in my head that we were going to talk for an hour about how I was a crappy wife and should probably fix that. About how any problems we have would obviously be my fault.
Totally not how it was.
You guys. Marriage counselling is great. It really is.
- You might need an outside perspective – You know that saying that if you were to throw all your problems into a pile with someone else, you’d wanna take yours back? Sometimes it takes someone else looking at your pile and saying “All of this is figure-outable!”
- Unbiased opinion – I was scared that everything would be my fault. Another thing I’m finding through this counselling and my personal sessions, is that I’m really hard on myself. I’m sure Casey thought that Laura (our counsellor) would side with me because we’re women. I’m gonna tell you, no one is choosing sides. Some sessions might be more focused on your stuff, and others might focus a little more on your spouse, but there isn’t really any side choosing.
- Breaking things down and focusing on changeable things – You know how if you have a big goal to hit, you’re better off making a list of the steps you need to take to get there? It’s like that. If your big goal is a better marriage, let’s break it down into the little, day to day things you can do to get there.
- It’s probably covered by your health plan – Seriously. People often see the price of therapy and think pfft! NO WAY! It’s 80% covered by our health plan. Call your provider and find out. A little bit of therapy is probably cheaper than a divorce!
- It’s worth your time – An hour session every few weeks is completely doable. Especially if you step back and think about wasting 6 years of your LIFE being unhappy! You can spend an hour scrolling through your Facebook feed, you can definitely spend an hour every few weeks working to make your life better.
- You don’t have to be unhappy to go – I wanna put this whole point in caps. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE UNHAPPY TO GO!!!! I feel better now. Don’t wait until it you’ve been unhappy for too long. Go. Now. Seriously. While writing this post I chatted with Casey about it and we both agree that it doesn’t matter what your marriage looks like, it really could only get better, right?! So go, and have a kick ass marriage, because you both deserve it.
I really can’t say enough good things about going to couples therapy. It’s really made a lovely difference in our marriage, and you guys, we weren’t even unhappy when we went. We just wanted MORE from our marriage, and we’re willing to put the time and effort in to make it better!
Disclaimer. I have not been paid to say any of this. These are my own opinions.
Fair warning. If you haven’t seen Frozen 2, there might be some spoilers ahead!
I’m sure we were among the last people who watched Frozen 2 in theatres, but my schedule was busy so I couldn’t swing it. It’s a full day trip to the city for us at the very least. I took Harper out of school on a Friday and we went away for the night to watch it and get some Christmas shopping done (as much as you can get done with your kid there).
I thought the movie was fantastic. I’m really into the themes and little lessons slipped in this time, without making it really obvious. One big thing stood out to me.
“Our love is not fragile”
Thank you Kristoff. Really. Thank you. We’ve been watching and showing our kids Disney movies for so long now, that it seems normal for a couple ot be ‘over’ or ‘done’ after a single fight. Over one partner feeling the need for independence. But not Kristoff and Ana.
Sure, when she took off and left him to his own devices, he sings a little about how that kind of hurt him, but by the end of that song, he’s talked himself back around, remembering that he loves and trusts her to do ”the next right thing.” So he’ll wait for her to return.
And what is the first thing he says to her when he scoops her up as she runs from the earth giants?
“What do you need?”
There was no, “how dare you just leave me like that?!” No, “You can’t just go off on your own like that!” I think he knows at this point what kind of woman he’s in love with. He trusts that she has a good reason for her crazy flight from the earth giants, and for raving that the dam must be broken.
When it’s all said and done, Ana, who does realize that she did take off without any notice and that it wouldn’t feel nice to have that done to you, appologizes to Kristoff for not being more considerate.
He says, “Our love is not fragile.”
Meaning that it’s a bond based on mutual trust. That it’s strong on both ends.
We need to stop romanticizing shallow, self centered love. We need to show ourselves and our children that it’s not normal (or it shouldn’t be) for couples to be constantly upset, mad or annoyed at each other over petty differences. We need to make deep connections that last a lifetime, not just until you have a fight over who does more work around the house or who gets more time off without the kids. We need to strive to be couples that support each other over big and small tasks.
Kristoff doesn’t try and shove Ana aside so he can do the saving. He supports her and lets her shine. He obviously wants to keep her safe but he’s not going to stop her from doing what needs to be done. He’s going to be there for her and support her.
THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why the world needs a WHOLE LOT more Kristoff!
I set the goal of reading 24 books this year, but I am aiming to beat that number. I read 22 books in 2019, and my goal was 20. I do count audiobooks as books read, because I do pay attention and process the words. I use Audible for my audiobooks. It’s a monthly payment of 15$ or so but you can use the credit you get on any book, no matter the cost. You can also purchase extra credits. I think they’re 3 for 35$, which is great because some of the books cost 35$ alone.
This is what I’m hoping to read through this month:
I’ve had this one on my TBR for a while. It’s based on a dystopian world during the second American civil war. The book follows Offred, a handmaid to a commander. She lives her day to day life in this new world and shares memories of her husband and daughter from “the time before”.
There is a television series out based on this novel, and I have wanted to watch it, but I wanted to read the book first, as usual, so I’m finally getting it done!
I don’t know if you’ve read or listened to Girl, Wash Your Face yet, but I highly recommend it! First of all, Rachel is adorable, and second, she makes you wanna get out there and kick some serious butt pursuing your dreams.
Yes, I just included a screenshot from my iPhone. I can’t help it, it’s an audiobook, so that’s basically all there is.
The idea behind this book is that if you want to make a change in any aspect of your life, you need to change yourself. Your day to day behaviours make up your whole life, whether for good or bad. There are lots of tidbits of info in this about how to tweek things in your life to make them work in your favour, and lots of motivation to get out there and do it.
I’d like to say I’m going to get another book finished this month too, but honestly, I’m loving Girl, Stop Apologizing so much that I think I might have to listen twice!
What are you reading this month?
I see it all the time on social media. “Have a daughter and you’ll have a best friend for life.” “I asked God for a best friend, he sent a daughter.” I’m sorry (not sorry) but I wholeheartedly disagree. My daughter is my daughter. It’s a special bond that you can’t compare to anything else in the world and it’s one of the most amazing relationships to be involved in, but we are certainly NOT best friends.
We probably won’t ever be.
Why? (What a cold, mean mom! I’m glad she’s not my mom! I feel bad for her kid!).
Because first and foremost, I am her mother. I’m her protector, safe place, disciplinarian, cheerleader, confidant, mentor, teacher, role model, and much more. To my friends, I’m their friend. I might be able to spread a few seeds of influence here and there, but overall, I’m not (or I hope I’m not) mothering them. They should be able to talk to me, trust me to give them the best advice I can, but it’s not the same. I’m not going to ever punish my friends for misbehaviour. It’s not my place. I am not going to make them write lines to practice their handwriting when it gets sloppy. I’m not going to make them eat their vegetables. At the end of the day, I don’t snuggle in with them, dreading the day when they’re too old for that. They can take my advice or leave it.
I think it might be a big mistake to aim for friendship with my daughter. Friendship is on equal ground. With my daughter, I should be in a position of leadership. I should guide her to live her best life. I aim to model good and healthy behaviour for her every day, in the best way that I can. When I’m with my friends, sure I’m not going to start breaking the law but I can let loose a little more. I want my daughter to respect me as an adult and her parent, its not the same as being her friend.
I try to consistently discipline my daughter. I’m sure my friends wouldn’t be overly appreciative of my discipline.
See where I’m coming from?
We wonder why our kids don’t respect adults or their parents, this is part of the reason. We’re not friends.
Maybe one day, when she’s grown and I have no more control in her life, we’ll be a sort of friend, but I hope she has her own best friends, of her own age. I’ll hope I taught her how to live her life in a way that her friends are cherished.
Until then, I’ll keep on mothering.
I mean, I’m no parenting expert, so I guess we’ll see how this all pans out!
I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since we woke up to the world having not ended. We unplugged the computers and had candles out, the bathtubs filled, and water and food stocked just in case the Y2K bug took us all out. When it all didn’t end at midnight, we all sort of thought “Maybe it’ll be midnight on New York time…or LA time.” So we went to bed figuring we might wake to the end of the world as we knew it. Turns out we were all crazy. It’s kind of hilarious to think about it now, that we thought the world was so technological back then that we couldn’t survive a virus. Did anyone have any idea what the next 20 years would bring? Not likely.
In the past, I have not wanted to take part in the whole “New Year New Me” BS. I’m still not really into that, but I’m into goal setting, so I thought I’d share my goals for this year. Here they are in no particular order.
- Continue my current weightlifting routine (3x/week).
- Practice yoga twice weekly (seriously, my muscles need it).
- Sprinkle enough cardio into my routine to not die on the Tough Mudder in June.
- Cut down on the clutter.
- Continue to build my sign business.
- Volunteer abroad and at home.
- Travel to a new country or two (or three?).
- Read 24 books.
- Make a habit of tracking my food.
- Practice Spanish daily.
- Run at least 1 5K each month.
- Take care of myself through therapy, daily meditation, journaling, taking time for myself, stop neglecting things I love doing.
- Utilize my planner more efficiently. Plan & Prepare ahead.
- Take care of my marriage (therapy, date nights, time together).
- Finish my Nutrition Coaching Course.
- Check off a couple of my bucket list items.
- Organize one room per month, at least.
- Spend more time with Harper.
- Be more intentional and less mindless on my phone.
- Use less plastic (bags and bottles).
Happy New Year!