What Does it Feel Like to be 26.5?

Half-Birthday Reflections: Twenty-Six and a Half.

Sometimes I think back to where I was six months ago. I am so pleasantly surprised [+ relieved + so thankful] when I compare it with where I am now. Life is a funny adventure.

I’m closer to 27 than 25. I keep drinking up my days like cold water on a hot day. Collecting life experiences. At this very second I am simulaneously the oldest I’ve ever been and the youngest I’ll ever be again.

Sometimes I think about where I’ll be six months from now. I can’t help but feel excited [+ anxious + thrilled + eager]. It feels like butterflies. I’m very excited to see where the next six months will take me. It’s nice to be on an upswing, a good run. One of those rollercoasters that’s only going up.

I’m training for the Nike Women’s 15k (my named was just picked!!), and I’m signing up for French lessons, and I’m going to the Blue Jays Home Opener next week. Everything just seems to keep going my way. It’s a good feeling.


Book Club: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Sometimes I can’t help but think that Ian McEwan is a one-hit wonder. It pains me to say this.


I often say that Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors, but I don’t think I can say that anymore. He is the author of one of my favourite books, Atonement, and some others (On Chesil Beach is also very good). The latest two, however, Sweet Tooth and The Children Act, have largely fallen flat.

The Children Act is about a Judge named Fiona Maye who presides over the Family Law Courts. She has a husband in the throes of a mid-life crisis who has set her aside for someone younger. It’s hard to take her seriously because she is completely devoid of real human emotions. She shows such little distress over her husband leaving her, and even less when he comes crawling back with his tail between his legs. I think an irreconcilable difference warrants at least a conversation. She is in charge of standing up for vulnerable persons in society, and yet, she cannot even stand up for herself. I have a hard time warming up to weak characters (Bella Swan, I’m looking at you) and who wants to identify with a weak hero/heroine anyway?!

There are a few flashbacks to reveal the character’s back story, in the usual McEwan style that I love so much. But Fiona’s character is so flat, I cannot even begin to comprehend her motivations or actions. Her husband’s character is not explored at all. He seems little more than a placeholder. If we had more to go on, it might be more plausible to understand their actions. I can barely accept that, in the throes of a mid-life crisis of her own, she becomes attracted to a dying teenager, based on one half-hour, lackluster encounter at his hospital bedside. The book makes very little sense, overall, and it is such a shame because it really had such potential.

I tried with Sweet Tooth, and again with The Children Act, and maybe I’ll give him one more shot. Unfortunately, I feel like having “A Novel by the Author of ATONEMENT” stamped on the front cover is now simply carte blanche to publish whatever collection of disjointed half-thoughts you want, whether they are good or not.


Quarterly Review: Q1 2015

Spring and all that comes with it: regeneration and rebirth.

Spring Robin

Over the weekend, I saw my first spring robin. I don’t know where or when I started keeping track of first robin sightings as my official start to spring… I always have a mini celebration/freak out when I see the first one, because it signals that life is slowly starting to creep back in.

Q1 has been a whirlwind in the all best ways. You know that feeling when you start a new journal? The endless possibilities of a blank page? It feels a little like that.

Looking ahead in my calendar, I can already see summer weekends are starting to fill up and everyone is making plans for the warm weather. I’m hoping all this sunshine and Vitamin D boosts will help me finally kick this wretched, lingering cold that I’ve been fighting since Family Day. It’s hard to run 100 miles with a cold! Hard, but not impossible.

I’m looking forward to a new Oana Befort desktop calendar, a new trench coat, and a new Les Mills release. And, I’m especially excited about all the good books I have lined up to read.

Spring has sprung!

Image source: 1

Royal Baby Name Predictions

Forget March Madness, I’ve been working on calculations for my House of Windsor Royal Baby Name Bracket.

Royal Baby Name Predictions | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I am obsessed with the British Royal Family. I can’t help myself and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I was born in London, and I spent a month in Cambridge, and all things regarding the UK and the Commonwealth have a special place in my heart. Above all else, I love Will + Kate and little Prince George the most. I stayed up all night in April of 2011 to watch the Royal Wedding and it was so worth it. I love this little family, and I am so excited for Royal Baby #2!! As we get closer to April, everyone will soon be consumed with thoughts on the new little bundle of joy. The bookies are already taking wagers. I’m hoping for a little Princess, but having another little Prince for George to play with would be just as fun. And what’s even more important: what will be the Royal Baby’s name?!

Using a very scientific formula and analysis, I present to you:

My 2015 Royal Baby Name Predictions

Royal Boy Names

I think they will pick a very traditional first name, and use more modern middle names, similar to the style of Prince George. Royal baby names are all about carving a unique identity while still honouring the past.

Philip would be a nice tribute to the Battenberg/Mountbatten side of the family. It is a middle name for both Prince William and Prince Charles, and the first name of Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip.

Albert has a stong history in the royal family. It was the first given name of King George VI and King Edward VII, and the name of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. It is also a middle name of Prince Harry, and William’s uncle, Prince Andrew.

Arthur conjures up romantic imagery of the legendary King Arthur of folklore. It is also a middle name for William, Prince Charles, and King George VI.

Edward has been around for a long time, but has never had a moment in the spotlight. It is the first name of William’s uncle, Prince Edward, and of his maternal grandfather, Edward John Spencer. It is also the name of Queen Victoria’s son and successor, King Edward VII.

Frederick is a personal choice for me because I would love to see a little Prince Freddie! To justify this choice, it is also a middle name of both King George V and King George VI.

Honourable Mentions
Any combination of Charles for William’s father, or Michael and James for Kate’s father and brother.

Royal Girl Names

Girl names are simultaneously easier and harder because there is a smaller list to choose from. I think they will pick a very traditional middle name and use a more modern first name, the opposite of Prince George. First, the traditional middle names:

Elizabeth is an obvious choice for William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, or my favourite historical figure, Queen Elizabeth I. It is also a middle name for Kate, William’s aunt, Princess Anne, and various cousins.

Victoria is a stong and powerful name for a British Monarch, on par with Elizabeth. It is the chosen name of Queen Victoria, and the first name of William’s great great grandmother, Mary of Teck.

In honour of the princess of our hearts, Catherine Middleton. Traditionally, this is not especially popular with the House of Windsor, but it is classic and traditional enough to make it onto the list.

Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt. Another obvious, yet controversial choice, but it would be a lovely tribute to William’s mother, Princess Diana.

Now, for the first names. I think they will choose something a little lighter to balance a heavy-hitting middle name:

Alexandra is more popular with the Royals than Alexander, Prince George’s middle name. Using this formula, I wouldn’t have picked out Alexander for him. Alexandra, however, is the middle name of Queen Elizabeth, the first name of King Edward VII’s wife, Alexandra of Denmark, and the first name of Queen Victoria, albeit she was called Alexandrina, which is very pretty.

Frances would be another lovely tribute to the Spencer family, as it was Princess Diana’s middle name. It is also the middle name of Kate’s father, Michael Francis Middleton, and it was the first name of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.

I am biased here, because this is my name. But, it is also a strong, classic name that would fit with the style of the Royal family. It is also the name of Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Margaret Rose.

This one is a bit out of left field, but still in the same neighbourhood. Strong, classic, and traditional, yet uncommon in the modern Royal lineup. It is also the name of Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother, Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck.

Honourable Mentions
Any combination of Anne, Alice, Louise, or Mary. These are pretty standard and popular among the Royal family as first and middle names. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some or all of these pop up.

I’m taking bets now. DM for details 🙂 We’ll only have to wait a few more weeks to find out! I can’t wait!!

Image source: 1 

All At Once, One Day, It’s Spring!

In like a lion, out like a lamb.

Spring 2015

I feel lucky to live in a place where we get to experience four completely separate and defined seasons. Four quarters to the year, and everything can be wrapped up in a neat and tidy little package.


We had a late start to the winter, but it was a rough one at that. It was long and bitter and really miserable. But over the last two weeks, and especially since Daylight Savings, the days just seem to be more pleasant overall. It was like the world decided, all at once, to be finished with winter. All the snow seemed to start melting the day after the time jumped forward, and everything is sunny and bright. Coming home when it is still light out is the best feeling in the world. My mood is so much better when the sun is shining. That Vitamin D really works wonders on your spirits.

March is an odd month. Charles Dickens really said it the best, and I use this quote so often when I’m out and about: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” You can be walking down the street, enjoying the warm sunshine, and then the wind blows or you pass through some shade and you are back in January just like that. Only a few weeks more, folks. Summer will be here before you know it.

March - Oana Befort

And, on top of everything else beautiful and pleasant about Spring, how adorable is this watercolour phone calendar from Oana Belfort? I only recently discovered her work (through a Flikr search of all things). She is so talented and has a bunch of beautiful pieces available for sale and to download. You can also find her on Instagram! Her style reminds me of Lulie Wallace or Anna Bond. As this month is drawing to a close, I can’t wait to see her April calendar!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a little early this year. On Sunday, my whole family came out to watch the 28th annual Toronto St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There were a lot of great bands and floats this year, and the weather was beautiful and sunny.

This is the 28th year of the parade, and my family has come out for each one! It is the only other big parade in the city besides the Santa Claus Parade, and it is a great tradition in our family. Especially with the passing of our Grandpa Pat this past November, it was even more special this year to keep his memory and our heritage alive and well. We have talked about it in the past, but I think we should seriously consider walking in the Parade next year. I’m sure we could rally a huge group for County Galway.



With our red hair, blue eyes, and freckly pale skin, it’s easy to see that we have Irish roots. I always like to say I am three-quarters Irish, one-quarter Scottish Canadian. I am Irish on both sides, from Galway on my mother’s side and Cork on my father’s side. I’ve pulled my two family crests here to share. Larkin and de Barra, from the name Barry. I get asked a lot about my last name, and if it is Spanish or Portuguese. It’s actually Norman French. There are connections with the Barrymores, the noble de Barry family, and even the Madame du Barry, the mistress of King Louis XV of France. The name of the town of the family seat is Buttevant, from our ancient French battle cry, “Boutez-en Avant!” or “Kick your way through!” Sounds about right. The de Barras: Kick first, ask questions later. 

We’re also lucky to have this beautiful De Barra’s Folk Club in Clonakilty, West Cork. Next time I’m in Ireland, I must make a pit stop. Surely, having your name on the door gets you the best seat in the house.

de Barra

Wishing you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, from my family to yours!

Would You Rather Be Busy or Bored?

Exploring the space between stress and stalemate.


People love to say they are busy. Often, it is a self-inflicted state. We do it to ourselves, to make us feel superior, more important, or more in-demand than others. In reality, most of us are not that important at all. So why do we do it? Do we really need to cancel on friends and family, or sacrifice eating or sleeping to finish ‘work’ or attend ‘events’? Or, are you simply packing your schedule to the breaking point so you can ricochet between these appointments only to breathlessly declare how busy you are. You’re not fooling me.

I have been busy before. The kind of busy where you say yes to everything even though you should not. It doesn’t always feel good, being at the mercy of the schedules of other people. What is productive or positive about losing sleep, or skipping healthy meals, or missing workouts, or rain checking quality time with friends, family, or yourself? Nothing is worth it.


There are few things that stress me out more than looking at my agenda on Monday, and seeing something booked for every night of the week. That sends a signal to my brain that this is going to be a stressful week. That there will be no downtime, that I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling, and that I’ll have to be “on”, so to say. It means there won’t be time for family meals, or my favourite classes at Goodlife, or even just some time to finish my current book. And there will be feelings of begrudging anger because I did it to myself, by booking things in advance and taking up all my free time.

I have really made a conscious effort over the past few years to plan ahead so I can carve out my own free time. Days where I don’t schedule anything. Where I can either get all my chores finished, or do all the things I couldn’t do during the week, or just to do nothing at all. My motto is “Saying no to others is saying yes to yourself” and I try to push it on to all the people who I hear complaining that they are simply swamped this week, that this month has been crazy, and their weekend is going to be hectic. It’s as easy as planning ahead, allotting time for yourself to do the things you love and the things you want to do, or to simply do nothing at all. The choice is yours.

Now, sometimes it’s not always this easy. And sometimes things pop up unexpectedly and are unavoidable. But if you’re cultivating a habit where you make it a priority to schedule time for yourself, it will not be as draining when those truly busy weeks pop up, and you will appreciate your downtime even more.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have also languished in the drudge. I have quite literally been bored to tears in those mind-numbing, soul-crushing positions where there is nothing to do but count the seconds as they tick away slowly. Is there anything worse than waste? Waste of your time, your talents, or your skills?

Betty Draper

“Only boring people are bored.” One of my favourite Betty Draper quotes, but I disagree with her. I align closer to Laurie Helgo who said, “I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups.” Just because I prefer a lifestyle that may appear boring from the outside, it does not mean I am a boring person on the inside. I see these as two separate issues. Just as a boring person can have a very full schedule, periods of rest can be either active or passive depending on the person. You can waste your time, or, you can cherish it by reading, writing, learning, or just existing. It is the sweet spot of being alone, but not feeling lonely.


My advice would be to start small. If you are in the habit of always saying yes to others at the expense of yourself, start by giving yourself permission to say no. That, in and of itself, is a huge step. As you begin to feel comfortable with that, start by picking a few nights each week where you schedule time for yourself. Pick one weeknight, and one full day on the weekend. Say Wednesday night, and Sunday during the day. If your friends want to go for dinner this week, any day but Wednesday is fine. If someone wants to grab a coffee this weekend, you can only do Saturday during the day. Stand up for yourself and put your foot down. Remember, each time you say no to someone, you are saying yes to yourself.

It will take time before this starts to feel natural for you, but once it does you won’t look back! Welcome to your newfound freedom!

The 100 Mile March

How to quantify your goals and measure your success.


In like a lion, indeed. Here we are in March, I can hardly believe it. I have turned into one of those people who are genuinely shocked on the first of every month. As if it doesn’t happen 12 times every year. We’ve had a very cold and bitter winter. I’m battling a cold and there are blackouts all across the city due to freezing rain and exploding generators. I’m ready for the days to get a little longer, and for the sun to shine a little brighter.

I love experiments. Tweaking little things to modify results. Challenges like going to the gym 20 days in one month (hard – near impossible), drinking 4L of water a day (doable), meditating before bed (easy and pleasant), and giving up caffeine after noon (still adjusting). I’m always trying to find the best/easiest/fastest/most productive way to be and do. I have found that having something to work towards, a goal or number, makes the journey so much easier and satisfying to accomplish. And so, I present to you: The 100 Mile March.

My goal for March is to clock in 100 miles of running, which is roughly two marathons or 4 half marathons. It equates to around 3.2 miles per day, or a nice 5km. There is no real reason to do it, except why not? I remember a few years ago when someone asked me what my hobbies were… I had recently moved back to Toronto after university, and many of my friends were either abroad or still in Ottawa. I found college to be very easy for the most part and I had very little homework, so when I wasn’t in school or working, I was at the gym. That was my hobby. The person asked if I was training for something… I wasn’t. I just liked to run. I remember feeling that my answer seemed inadequate. Why do something just for the fun of it? Why waste the time and energy if you are not trying to achieve something?

One of my New Year’s resolutions in 2013 was to double my long run from 6 to 12 miles. I found along the way that a half marathon is 13.1 miles, so that became my goal. Each week I would tack on another mile and in just a few weeks, I had chipped away and passed 13.1 miles. It was a tangible goal with a clear plan. I loved seeing 13.1 displayed on the screen and I felt accomplished and proud. My mistake was that I didn’t plan for what was to come next. The logical move would be to either continue adding to the distance, or try to improve the speed. But I didn’t do either. I passed 13.1 and that was that. Back to the regular everyday grind.

I think 100 miles is both a realistic and challenging goal. Maybe a little aggressive, but why not aim high? I am young, willing, and able enough. I can do it, I’m sure, but it won’t be easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

I have printed out a table, 10 x 10 squares, to colour in as I go and to help me keep track of my progress. Now if only I wasn’t sick as a dog with this cold, I could be out there right now. I, along with every single person on the GO and TTC, seem to be fighting the same cold that just will not quit.

Paper Clips | by Maggie de Barra Nike Women's 15k Toronto

This 100 Mile March is good practice for the Nike Women’s 15k on June 14, 2015 on the Toronto Islands. A 15k race is a nice buffer between a beginner’s 5k and a half marathon (21k). To register, you first have to enter a raffle on March 9, 2015 and a random draw will be held to choose spots.

I can’t wait for the warm weather to sweep in so I can take my 100m from the treadmill to the park!

If you register and are chosen for the Nike Women’s 15k, let me know! And if you are brave enough to tackle the 100 Mile March with me, I want to know your progress!

See you at the finish line. On your marks, get set, GO!

A New Chapter

Entering that phase of life where I talk a lot about how much I love my Kindle and how I am really into Decaf. 

Dear friends, something has happened to me. Suddenly, overnight it seems, I stopped reading paperbacks and stopped drinking caffeine.

This is only partly true, but it feels like a big change. I have a new Kindle. It is handy and adorable and portable and useful. The first book I read was #GIRLBOSS. I devoured it in less than 48hrs, hoping for a sense of depth or gravitas that did not come. Sophia Amoruso shared some dark moments, maybe too many or maybe not dark enough, because I anticipated feeling shocked and inspired but the sensation was dulled. Sure, she went through some tough times, but they were skimmed over and trivialized in order to make way for the glow of her literal rags-to-riches success. It is easy to look back on those hard times through rose-coloured glasses when you are safe and comfortable in the present.

Next, I bought Catherine, Called Birdy. A book I wish I had growing up because I just know that I would have loved it. It’s about a young girl coming of age in England in the 1200s. I also heard a rumour that Lena Dunham is trying to adapt this book into a movie. I can’t think of anything more up my alley.

And somewhere along the way, I realized that I need to cut waaay back on the amount of coffee I drink. My usual intake is something like 1-2 cups of coffee or tea while I get ready for the day and eat breakfast; 1 cup on the way to work/traveling; 1 cup in the morning; 1 cup at lunch; and if it is an especially tiresome day, one more in the afternoon. And maybe/probably one more on the way home or with a friend or after dinner. I was drinking coffee constantly for 12hrs straight! It’s really no wonder I seemed to be plagued by insomnia. I don’t even drink it for the effects, I drink coffee for the flavour. I developed a serious bad habit in college and university where I couldn’t start a class unless I had a hot beverage nearby. Having a paper cup glued to my hand at all times seems second nature.

I have made a conscious effort in the last two months to really cut down and totally eliminate any caffeine after 12pm. One, maybe two cups a day tops and I’ve been trying to switch to Decaf where possible. I’ll try to track the changes in my energy and alertness during the day, and to see if there is any direct correlation when I’m trying to fall asleep.

So with that, I will continue to trudge through this snowy February with my little tablet in one hand and a decaf Americano in the other. Results to follow.

Image source: 1

Show Me the WayHome

#BonnarooNorth aka WayHome Festival releases lineup and ticket info.


Here we have it! A few weeks ago I was speculating about the lineup for the Bonnaroo expansion to our neck of the woods. We have an official name, WayHome. An interesting choice, as it was rumoured to be called HomeAway, which I think I prefer.

Why not something about Pablum, Crokinole, Poutine or another Canadian invention with an interesting name to compete with Coachella, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, and Bonnaroo. I think I even prefer Boots & Hearts because at least it gets straight to the point. Maybe just Medonte to keep in line with the trend of a strange word ending in a vowel.


I’ve seen a bunch of these bands already: Kendrick Lamar, alt-j, Passion Pit (a new album coming out?), Girl Talk (new mashups??), Yukon Blonde (yay Canada), and Evening Hymns (Ottawa represent). They are all great in their own way and I would go see them again. I’m also really excited to see Modest Mouse, I’ve loved them since high school.

There are also a lot of fad bands on this list: Sam Smith, Hozier, Vance Joy etc. I would trade all of these for another big name. And no Drake or the Weeknd! I guess Drake will be busy with his OVO fest and won’t want to compete.

I like it but I don’t love it – yet. Tickets right now will go for $209.99 – a nice deal for three days of music and camping included.

It sure doesn’t feel like it, but summer is just around the corner and it’s time to start planning your weekends now. WayHome runs from July 24-26.