Travel/Culture: – Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexico has always been good to me.

Church and Plaza Santo Domingo

Church and Plaza Santo Domingo

I’ve visited a variety of places from bustling and busy Tijuana to what used to be known as the sleepy fishing village of Barra de Navidad to the resort towns of Cancun & Playa del Carmen. I worked at one of the Club Meds in Mexico years ago. Never had a bad time or gotten sick.

A restaurant in al centro

A restaurant in al centro

Last week I returned from spending ten days in what is considered to be “the most diverse” state in all of Mexico.  Ten days in vibrant Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-ka) is definitely not enough time, but it is just enough time to know that I want to go back.  It was wonderful.

A typical stroll

A typical stroll into town

A friend was house sitting another friends spectacular house high up on a hill with a 180 degree view and invited me to stay.  At the time she told me about it I was considering going to Las Vegas to run a half marathon along the strip at night while listening to rock bands (for something different) but I made the wiser choice.

Many, many of these arches

Many, many of these arches (arquitos)

Before I came to Oaxaca (a UNESCO world heritage site) I thought I knew everything a lot about Mexico.  I was expecting to hear mariachis everywhere and get a plate of chips & salsa delivered to our table as soon as we sat down at any restaurant.  Not so…although you can.  Instead we listened to a combination of Cuban, Jazz, Salsa, Argentine Tango, Classical and a 12-piece brass orchestra visiting from Belgium which took place in the dazzling Macedonio Alcala theatre – all gratis.  Every night there is something different to take in and lots of puppetry, fireworks and dancing.

Monte Albán, built by the Zapotecs, is one of the country's most important ruins.

Monte Albán, built by the Zapotecs, is one of the country’s most important ruins.

So much activity goes on in the town centre amidst local artisans selling their wares, craft shops and street markets.  All the cuisine we had was unbelievably top-notch.  I heard this to be true but had to find out for myself.  The only thing I did not sample were the worms and grasshoppers that are considered delicacies there (I’ll leave that for the locals and was not so brave even to try the crunchy ones).  I might need a whole bottle of Mexcal before doing so.

The inspiring rock formations  of a petrified waterfall at Hierve el Aqua.

The inspiring rock formations of a petrified waterfall at Hierve el Aqua.

Here is what else I found besides an amazingly wide variety of food – stunning architecture, rich cultural traditions, important ruins, a great little *Spanish language school where you can sit outside in a garden setting for your lessons, a soft temperate climate (which allows you to sit outside) and Oaxaca’s specialty spirit, mezcal,

I'm not sure I can do this

I’m not sure I can do this

There are many little tasting spots called "mezcalarita's" around town

Many little tasting spots  (mezcalerilas) around town

which is made from dozens of types of agave (unlike tequila, which is made exclusively from blue agave).  Another thing is that you don’t want to have too much of that.  Don’t ask me how I know that…somebody told me. I think it can make you hallucinate.

So I don’t know everything about Mexico but I’m willing to learn.  This is a place I’d like to further explore with a side trip to Huatulco. Not to mention brush up on my Español .  Hasta la próxima vez!


Have you been?



Photos: d. king (double click to enlarge)

*SchoolOaxaca Spanish Magic

Link to my Oaxaca board for more photos on PINTEREST (which I will keep adding to):



Words….trying not to get lost in translation

This is written on the wall of a shop in Oaxaca, Mexico. 20141107_105844

Translation (more or less):

when you love what you are

there is nothing that is unconquerable or unreachable

when you really love yourself

(here is where it gets a little lost) live only in the light of your own laughter

and travel only by the way of joy and happiness

Look up.…look way up!   and… “Don’t Lose the NOW20141107_220753

This one is a photo taken of a famous poem written by Jorge Luis Borges that filled the whole ceiling of a quaint little wine bar/restaurant in historic Oaxaca where my friends and I listened to live Cuban music.  Borges, an Argentine poet, short-story writer, essayist and translator was a key figure in Spanish language literature.  His work embraces the “character of unreality in all literature.”  This is a beautiful writing and will make you think about your life:20141107_220753 - Copy


If I could live again my life,
In the next – I’ll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won’t try to be so perfect,
I’ll be more relaxed,
I’ll be more full – than I am now,
In fact, I’ll take fewer things seriously,
I’ll be less hygenic,
I’ll take more risks,
I’ll take more trips,
I’ll watch more sunsets,
I’ll climb more mountains,
I’ll swim more rivers,
I’ll go to more places – I’ve never been,
I’ll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I’ll have more real problems – and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives -
each minute of his life,
Of course that I had moments of joy – but,
if I could go back I’ll try to have only good moments,

If you don’t know – thats what life is made of,
Don’t lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,

If I could live again – I will travel light,
If I could live again – I’ll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I’ll ride more carts,
I’ll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live – but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying …

Jorge Louis Borges

Health MATTERS: PET THERAPY – breeding optimism

IMPROVE your animal’s outlook by grasping how it sees the worldpet2Nevermind that people have enough trouble keeping optimistic but now we have to attend to the mood swings of our pets too?

This is a rather intriguing article written by animal behavioural scientist Rebecca Ledger (special to the Vancouver Sun). It is  condensed from the original (which was much longer) but this will give you a general idea & you can find the complete article link below.

pet1How can you tell if your pet sees the world through rose-tinted glasses?

Owners of pessimistic cats and dogs will be familiar with the behavioural problems that plague these cynical pets.  These animals are more likely to perceive strangers as threatening even if their intentions are good.  They are more likely to feel insecure when left alone, as opposed to relishing the peace and quiet and taking the opportunity to nap.  And, any new situation or object may be viewed skeptically, rather than engaging their curiosity and inciting joy.  While a ‘normal’ dog is likely to anticipate a good outcome during these situations, pessimists expect the worst.

As such, pessimistic dogs are more likely to become stressed and fight, flight or freeze when faced with an unpredictable situation.  They may bark, whine or howl when left at home alone, scratch doors and windows in an attempt to find their owners, growl and snap at strangers, lunge and bark at other dogs, and bolt and hide when they feel startled, overwhelmed and unable to cope.

Pessimism isn’t a diagnostic term that is used to label behavioural disorders in our pets, however it does provide a helpful way to think about their emotional issues.  Pessimism is related to anxiety, the emotional state that is experienced at times of worry, uncertainty and apprehension.  While most dogs will view a stranger as a friend they haven’t met yet, the pessimist is more likely to think stranger equals danger.

To varying degrees, pessimists can be turned into optimists by tapping into the underlying neurological factors that underlie these traits.

It is crucial to teach animals, through repeated, positive experiences, that situations they perceive as potentially treacherous are instead reliably safe.  This is the basis of modern veterinary behavioural medicine.

Appreciating how individuals perceive the world differently encourages us to be sympathetic to the decisions that our animals make in challenging situations.

While we may not agree with our pet’s assessment of a situation, it at least allows us to understand why our pets sometimes behave the way they do.

More on her blog:






Feel-Good Friday: cute cuppa coffee

in ice cream coloured cafetieres.bodum1

To celebrate 70 years of innovative kitchenware Bodum (the maker of the iconic French press) have re-launched some of their classic and our favourite items in fresh fun colours.  Makes you think of spring/summer but that’s just fine at this time of the year.20141119_083015

It makes the start to my day that much merrier.

Happy Anniversary Bodum!

A perfect cup of moka just days ago at Café Arábigo in Oaxaca, Mexico.

I had the perfect cup of moka just days ago at Café Arábigo in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Beauty: eyes, lips, cheeks – favourites

Every year Sephora puts out the ultimate beauty boxed gift sets (even if the gift is meant for ourselves) so we can sample the best of the best.



This year I was eyeing “gimme more lip” when I realized that I already have almost half the box in my beauty cabinet at home.  Which  means it’s a pretty useful and gorgeous set.sephoragivemesomelip

For your EYES ONLY

For your EYES ONLY

It’s kind of like the makeup version of the Japanese boxed lunch where you want to sample a little bit of everything because you are so hungry for it all.  

So, which one of these appeals to you the most?


The Crème de la Crème SHOPApt1Here is another very versatile shop I want to share with you.apt2

 I’m a BIG advocate of one-stop shopping Apt3apt5In this place you can not
only get something great to wear or carry….apt6but you can pick up some pretty nice herbal teas,apt9 a gift for a mom-to-be,apt4dishes for your dog, apt7a lavatory mist and a little something to read.

Or a HAT!

Or a HAT!

Not bad right?

1199 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver

Photos: d. king

Food: Wolfgang Puck’s Asparagus Soup

I hope you enjoy this *pheremone enhancing recipe with added Leeks and Herbsasparagussoup

For the past five years Wolfgang Puck, long-reigning king at the L.A. institution Spago, has been on a new path, working out with a trainer and revamping his menus to emphasize fresh produce and whole grains.  “I like to buy high-quality ingredients and simply enhance them rather than alter their flavor or color,” says Puck.  His new cookbook, Wolfgang Puck Makes it Healthy, offers all the details.  Asparagus creates an ultra-bright soup. Cooling it in an ice bath as soon as it’s blended, keeps the hue vivid and preserves the chlorophyll so that the dish will be healthier and taste even better according to Puck.


20141102_212656What to do with them:20141102_212735

*Link to last Tuesday’s post – Foods that affect Pheremones:

Asparagus was one of them.  Asparagus is high in Vitamin E, which is believed to stimulate sex hormones…enough said!

Photos: d. king (ha, ha…….not my usual style but I’m traveling).

Words…Happiness as a Role vs. True Happiness

How are you?”  Just great.  Couldn’t be better.”  True or False?happy

In many cases, happiness is a role people play, and behind the smiling façade, there is a great deal of pain.  Depression, breakdowns, and overreactions are common when unhappiness is covered up behind a smiling exterior and brilliant white teeth, when there is denial, sometimes even to one’s self, that there is much unhappiness.

“Just fine” is a role the ego plays more commonly in America than in certain other countries where being and looking miserable is almost the norm and therefore more socially acceptable.

Be aware that what you think, to a large extent, creates the emotions that you feel.  See the link between your thinking and your emotions.  Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.

Don’t seek happiness.  If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness.  Happiness is ever elusive, but freedom from unhappiness is attainable now, by facing what is, rather than making stories about it.  Unhappiness covers up your natural state of well-being and inner peace, the source of true happiness.

Source: Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” (the Life Purpose Bible).



Travel/Lifestyle – PET PEEVES

How you can make traveling with your PET EASIER.travel1

Yes, this is a little bit out of the norm but why not shake it up a bit.  The holidays are fast approaching and too many people have animals they want to travel with including me.  So this piece written by Rebecca Ledger (Vancouver Sun – Arts & Life, Tuesday, October 7th, 2014) will probably help those who wish to take their pets along for the ride.

Dogs are always excited to go for a car ride but, getting travel-phobic pets from A to B without barking, whining, pacing and throwing up en route is already on many owners’ minds.  Nausea, anxiety and unruly behaviour on car journeys are common problems, affecting around 20 per cent of pet dogs. This equates not only to thousands of miserable animals, but more critically, a lot of distracted driving.

What can we do to ensure that we reach our destination relaxed, in one piece and without the car smelling of vomit? Many solutions are available, but which ones actually work?

The first step is to identify if and why your dog is distressed, as different causes require different treatments. If your dog experiences motion sickness, recognizable by hyper-salivation, retching, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea, a visit to your veterinarian to get an anti-nausea product is a good call. Currently, Cerenia is the only FDA-approved product for the treatment motion sickness in dogs, although your veterinarian may recommend other products instead, such as Gravol or Benadryl. Some anti-nausea medications also sedate, so your veterinarian will need to know what shape your dog needs to be in when it reaches its destination.  Bear in mind that not all anti-nausea products made for humans are safe for all pets, so check with your veterinarian first what and how much to give.

Even if an anti-nausea product is effective, some dogs continue to dread getting into the car, sometimes anticipating the nausea of journeys-past. Travel anxiety also occurs in dogs that have suffered a traumatic event in a vehicle, such as an accident, or that have shocked by an electronic collar as they pass through an ‘invisible fence’ at the perimeter of their property. Dogs that have not got used to car rides from a young age and puppies too are at a greater risk of having travel-related anxiety and nausea.

Anxious dogs behave in a variety of ways. Once having been lured or perhaps forced into the car, some pets develop a full-blown stress response. Keep an eye out for excessive salivation, panting, trembling and an elevated heart rate. Seeing your windows fog up and covered in slobber are telltale signs.  Some anxious dogs will also whine, whimper, pin their ears back and tuck their tails between their legs. Also, watch for dogs that raise their front paw, yawn and lick their lips frequently.

Anxious dogs require weeks, if not months, of ‘systematic desensitization training’ to eventually feel safe in their vehicle. This involves gradual exposure to being in a parked vehicle, being in a parked vehicle with the engine running, and eventually short, tolerable trips that end before a panic attack is underway. However, when time is of the essence, again there are band-aid products that can help to alleviate the discomfort for stressed pets.

Your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication or sedative to help your pet stay calm. But, these products do not always have the desired effect. Recall the child on the airplane bouncing off the cabin walls instead of sleeping soundly after a dose of Benadryl? Well, some dogs can show similar paradoxical effects to sedatives. For this reason, make time to test these medications in advance of your trip.

For owners who prefer to avoid medications, low-risk, non-prescription products are also available. However, peer-reviewed clinical studies suggest that their effect is slight, with some pets failing to respond at all.

DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone, available from your veterinary clinic) calms dogs without sedating them. But, when clinically tested, while some nauseas dogs improved, it had no significant impact on excitable dogs. Conversely, diffused lavender oil reduces dog activity during car rides, but has no proven effect on anxiety. In one clinical trial, dogs treated with lavender aromatherapy spent more time sitting or lying down quietly than a Control group.

The Thundershirt also claims to help calm anxious dogs during travel, although, a study published this year in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour found that its effects were minimal. This body-hugging wrap had no significant effect on a dog’s heart rate or behaviour during transit, unless the dog was already on an anti-anxiety medication, in which case it helped a little.

To conclude, if your dog is distressed on car rides, prescription products work best. And, while non-prescription solutions can chip away at mild issues, they don’t provide as much value for money and have insufficient effect in more severe cases. So, if you can’t see your veterinarian in time for your trip, and the non-prescription items don’t quite cut it for your dog, try to stick to the highways — drivers can do their part by avoiding erratic movements, sharp turns and bumpy roads. Transporting your pet on an empty stomach can also help avert problems. Or, if all else fails, maybe think about spending the holidays at home with your dog this year!

Rebecca Ledger is an animal behaviour scientist.  Read her blog at

Feel-good Friday – Long Live our Monarch

the BUTTERFLY!birds7

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the leaves in the trees started to come to life!  It is a natural phenomenon - a sight to behold.

Each year thousands of vibrant orange and black Monarch Butterflies flock to Pismo Beach, seeking shelter from the freezing northern winters. From late October to February, the butterflies cluster in the limbs of a grove of Eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach.  A beautiful place where I camped on several occasions.



The butterflies form dense clusters (as in the above photo) with each one hanging with its wing down over the one below it to form a shingle effect. This provides shelter from the rain and warmth for the group. The weight of the cluster help keeps it from whipping in the wind and dislodging the butterflies.

Waking up!

Waking up!  This photo from website

The colony at Pismo Beach (home of the beach blanket bingo movies with Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello in the mid 60′s should anyone care) is one of the largest in the nation, hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies over the years but the numbers have exceeded a quarter million.

The annual Monarch butterfly migration in Michoacan, Mexico is the largest in the world and is a famous top attraction for visitors.  I have yet to see it. Can there be anything more beautiful?

Photos: d. king