2016: A Year in Review

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

2016, the year of some of my highest highs (Coysta) and lowest lows (November 8). I sure am glad this year is over. Let’s put this thing to bed.

Good Vibes Only

Yukon Blonde

Yukon Blonde

Wintersleep

Wintersleep

Drake

Drake

Whitebrow

Whitebrow

Ellie Goulding  Tragically Hip (no pics but they did happen)

WayHome Flags

WayHome!

WayHome 2016

Reading Rainbow

I got through 15 this year. Take that, Goodreads. In order from most to least favourite:

  1. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
  2. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
  3. My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem
  4. So Sad Today, Melissa Broder
  5. Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
  6. Belgravia, Julian Fellowes
  7. The Nightengale, Kristin Hannah
  8. The Witches, Stacy Schiff

Honourable Mentions: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Tiny Beautiful Things, A Stolen Life, Bossy Pants, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, All My Puny Sorrows, Is it Evil Not to be Sure?

Heaps of memoirs and non-fiction with a few novels here and there to keep things light. Reading with the kindle makes things so much easier because I can hold it in one hand on the subway and a pole in the other so I don’t fall over. Not as easy to do with a book. The future is now, friends. I also discovered the timer at the bottom so I can see how many hours and minutes are left in each chapter/the whole book and that motivates me to finish things faster.

I Like Sports and I Don’t Care Who Knows

Jays, Raps, Argos, Team North America etc. etc.

Team North America

Is there anything better than October baseball?

Jays 2016

One Tough Mudder,

Tough Mudder

One O-Course,

Fit Factory O Course

One Ping Pong Tournament, Two Half-Marathons, Two Obstacle Courses,

The Young and the Restless

Four MEC races (the greatest deal of all time).

MEC Toronto

The fitfam is alive and well.

Tough Mudder

Costa Rica – The Best Week of my Life!

I graduated from university in 2010 and college in 2012. Then I sat down at a desk and didn’t move for four years. I was long overdue for a vacation and I finally got everything that I wanted and more. My sister Kay and I picked Costa Rica (which we have been affectionately calling Coysta since Kay spent a month there in high school) because it seemed like the perfect blend of the beach front/all-inclusive scene together with the hostel-dwelling/backpacker travelling experience.

Tamarindo Costa Rica

We escaped to Tamarindo for a whole lotta sun, sand, surf, and cervezas.

Maggie de Barra

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, we did spend the entire week reenacting Blue Crush at every possible moment. I left my heart in Tamarindo and I will need to go back sometime very soon to collect it. Everybody moves a little slower and everyone is happy and free! Nobody rushes, stray dogs are friendly, life is beautiful.

Tamarindo

Pura ♥ Vida

Philanthropy 

My proudest accomplishment this year is all of the wonderful charity activities we organized through work. We raised money for breast cancer, a Thanksgiving food drive, and we collected presents and gift cards for our adopted Syrian refugee family through the Holiday Angel Program at New Circles. I also managed to gather a table for the Hearts for Syria fundraising gala. And, we already have so many plans for next year – Bell Let’s Talk, Prom Dress Drive, Spring Cleaning Clothing Donations… It was a wonderful year and I was so touched by the incredible generosity of my coworkers.

Hearts for Syria

Election 2016

File under ‘worst experiences of my life’. If you were looking for a wake up call, this was it. I was living happily in a bubble, surrounded by people who act and think like me and it was a very rude awakening. The only thing to do now is move forward and keep fighting for the causes I love and support. We can’t fix everything. We can’t help everyone. We can pick one issue and throw ourselves into it. Scream from the tallest buildings. Write letters and emails. Show up. If you are an ally, make it known. Vote. Participate. Be an active citizen and protect the Canada we know and love. We can’t let this happen again and we cannot let it happen here.

Anything and Everything

December is always exhausting and I’m really looking forward to recalibrating and resting in January for a hot minute. 2016 was the best and the worst for so many reasons! The days are long but the years are short, so they say.

Blue

Did I accomplish any of my new year’s resos from last year? Nope. My only resolutions for this year: read more books and be a good person. Go on one trip – I’m thinking Bali or Bust

Blue Mountain

The Theme for 2017 is Bacchanal

*goes to Central America once*

*loves Soca music*

Let me preface this next bit by saying I have a minor in Greek and Roman studies so I know what I’m talking about.

The MVP for our Costa Rica trip was DJ Private Ryan, the DJ who creates the best gym podcasts. He creates mixes with top 40, Soca, hip hop, reggae and more and they are almost all over an hour long so they really go the distance (etc. etc.) during training. They are also great “getting ready” playlists and we always have one playing when we need something to pick us up a little bit. There are a bunch of songs on these playlists that I had never heard before, some are not popular on the Toronto stations and I had never heard them out and about in the city. I never paid any attention to these songs while we were listening to the podcasts before but I was absorbing them the whole time without realizing.

Cut to a scene on the beach in Coysta where Shakira and Enrique Iglesias are still hitmakers and they only play dance music – everywhere! Kay and I unexpectedly recognized all or most of the songs from DJ Private Ryan’s podcasts and it was such a sweet throwback to Goodlife exercise room sessions and bedroom dance parties.

There is a recurring theme in Soca music that reveres the idea of Bacchanal. I appreciate the way Soca artists use this word which refers to the celebrations of the followers of the ancient Roman god of wine, Bacchus. These festivals were called Bacchanalia and they were supposedly very scandalous and for heathens only – just like Tamarindo!

The modern interpretation of Bacchanal as it is used in Soca music is a little different. The ScotiaBank Toronto Carnival Lexicon describes Bacchanal as: uninhibited fun, laughter, and revelry. That sounds absolutely perfect to me and that is all I want for the next year.

#Bacchanal2017 – be there or be square!

Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon 2016

In pursuit of the sub-2hr half.

Sometimes I spend my weekends sleeping in late, and sometimes I wake up at 5:30am and do crazy things. On Sunday, May 1, 2016 I woke up at 5:30am and did something crazy.

I conquered the Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon.

Certificate of Completion | Paper

I had spent the last few weeks training pretty hard and I was so excited to tackle this run. The day before was beautiful and sunny and cool. The course was mostly downhill and I knew that with some beautiful weather, I could finish in under two hours. I woke up on Sunday hoping for another gorgeous day and I was very sad to see cold grey skies and pouring rain.

I ran alone this time, which was both comforting and a little unnerving. I really wanted to finish it in under two hours. My last half was finished in 2:04. I didn’t really plan or train for a certain time at the Scotiabank half. This time I had been preparing. I knew I needed to average about a 9-minute mile for the majority of the race to get under two hours.

I had a little bit of a plan. All the articles I read said to run the first mile a little slower than your average pace, so that’s what I did. After the first mile marker, I felt really good. It was nice running through the city and it felt comfortable. I was so surprised at how many people were running together, and all the people who were cheering on the sidelines with cute signs. Bless their little hearts, if I wasn’t running there would be no way to get me out of bed on a cold, wet day.

Goodlife Half | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I had made a plan to take an energy chew at mile 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. I checked my pace on my iPod every mile. And, I had a water belt so I could save some time bypassing the water stations. At mile 4, I checked my pace and was so surprised to hear I was only 35 minutes in! This was a perfect pace for me and I was so pumped. I was a little bit ahead of the 2:00 continuous Running Room Pace Bunny for most of the race, and every time their pack caught up to me I made sure to push through to get ahead.

I felt good all the way down Yonge Street, and down Rosedale Valley Road. I sprinted down the hills and took it easy when I felt like I needed to. My pace was good. I checked a few times and I had 5:30/km, 5:15/km, there was even one time I checked and it said 4:45/km. I couldn’t believe it. I was soaking wet, running through puddles, rain in my face, freezing cold and somehow I was on track.

Race Map | Paper Clips by Maggie de BarraTowards the end of Rosedale Valley Road, coming up to Bayview, I slowed down a little to rest. I knew that once we hit the downtown core I would need to pick up the pace and I was trying to conserve a little bit of energy. As we moved west through downtown I started speeding up a little. According to my iPod, around mile 12, I was at about 1:47, so in my mind, I had one mile left and 13 minutes to finish it. This seemed like it was almost too good to be true so I felt awesome. I was pushing even harder so that I could stay at a comparable time.

And then, the sad realization that my iPod was not calibrated correctly, as it announced that I had finished the race as I was rounding Bathurst. I had about another 1.5-2km to go. And my next mistake, not really studying the race map, because as I was coming up to Fort York, I was sprinting hoping to see a finish line any second. And then the Prince’s Gate, and still no finish line. So I was just going full out, I was in the zone and I just sprinted the whole rest of the way.

Goodlife Finish Line | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

I jumped over the finish line with my hands in the air feeling triumphant and strong as a horse. I checked my iPod and it said 2:02. Two minutes faster than last time, two more minutes to go. I was really happy with my time. I know that if it was sunny and beautiful, I would have been a little quicker. I know I can finish in under two hours, I just don’t quite know how to get there.

After the race, I immediately felt freezing. I had checked my bag up by Mel Lastman Square and I was expecting it to be on the same truck or under a tent of some sort. I was super bummed out to see a parking lot full of soggy bags and a few pylons to direct us around. That would be my only complaint, they really needed tents for the bags. My stuff was soaked. My phone was okay, tucked in my coat pocket and wrapped up. My change of clothes was damp. I felt a little stupid because I had packed two plastic bags to put my wet stuff in, and if I knew the bags would be sitting out in the open, I would have put everything in the plastic bags.

The line for food was way too long and I just wanted to find my friends and get some coffee and be somewhere warm and dry. I did grab two bottles of the most delicious honey lemon water on the way out. That almost made up for the wet bags.

My post-race routine consists of brunch, a lot of coffee, an epsom salt bath, a pumice stone, foam rolling, and a long nap. The post-race nap is the most glorious thing in the whole world. I do these crazy things for the recommended naps afterwards.

And so, I have now had more than two weeks to recover and I am back in training for the 15k I have at the end of the month. There is no rest for the wicked.

Sub-2, I’m coming for you.

Ode to a Foam Roller

MEC Race One: The Winter Run 2016

MEC Race One 2016

You thought that it would be so fun, to go out for a winter run.
Pounding on the pavement, so out into the cold you went.
Racing bros and sisters, avoiding all the blisters.
Toenails turning black and blue, all the different rainbow hues.
But in your noble hustle, you tore a leg muscle.
A pack of have nots and the haves, and none of them can move their calves.
You’ve got some wonky ligaments, a flight of stairs will make you wince.
A pirate with his wooden pegs, limping on your shaky legs.
All the way to the gym, you cry out – a sacred hymn.
Grab the tube to knead it out, the knots are strong, you twist and shout.
Pressing through, you’re in the zone. Thank the god who made this foam.
Are these races worth the toll? You ask yourself, as you roll.
Every muscle, just as tight. Pain threshold rising like a kite.
Have I ever been this sore? Is it strange that I want more?
I’m an addict, need to use, as I lace up my running shoes.
On the road or at the gym, all I ever do is win.

*mic drop*

MEC Race One 2016

2015: A Year in Review

The Year of the Rat Race.

So 2015 has come and gone. I have just transferred over everything into my new Moleskine agenda for next year and I think I am ready to go. But to go forwards, we must first look back!!

I will always remember 2015 as the year in motion. It seemed like there was always something new on the horizon and I was really moving at full-speed through each and every chapter. Time does fly when you’re having fun.

Who run the world?

My favourite memories of this year are running through the beautiful 6ix with my beautiful woes in our makeshift running crew. I signed up for three major races this year and it really pushed me to train hard all summer. Though my favourite part of race-training is carb loading. I was so happy with my experiences that I have signed up for 10 next year! Ten races including 2 half-marathons. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Scotiabank Waterfront Half-Marathon

Half-Marathon Stats

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

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day

Canada Day

The SS JVT

Blue Jays!

Jays

Birthdays – 27!!

Birthday

Book Club

I got a Kindle this year and I just love it. I’ve read a bunch of good books this year:

#GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso – Review
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman – Review
The Children Act by Ian McEwan – Review
The Diary of Anais Nin by Anais Nin
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Review
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – Review
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I’m looking forward to another year of great books. My only goal will be to get a solid 12 in next year. I’m sure I can manage it as my Goodreads profile is publicly shaming me for only getting to nine this year. I’d also like to get around to posting all my reviews and discussion questions.

New Year’s Resos

Well I did two big ones from a few years ago: I ran a half marathon and quit facebook (you’re welcome, 2013). I’ve been facebook-free for about a month now – emphasis on free. I have not had the urge to check it and I am greatly enjoying not being so connected to everyone all the time. I really wish I did this a long time ago.

My resos for 2016 in no particular order:

Run a sub-2 half – with the training schedule I have lined up for the next ten months, it should be no problem. I managed to get 2:04 in my first half so I only need to shave off 5-10 minutes.

Take a class – stay in school, kids. I’m not so particular but I have my eye on a conversational French and/or a business writing class.

Embrace Essentialism – probably my favourite book that I read this year. It confirms a way of life that I have been living for a while but I just didn’t know what to call. This book is more than just a pseudo-pop science lifestyle theory about trimming the fat. It’s not just about less is more, the undercurrent of Essentialism is less, but better. 

less but better!

  

My theme for 2016: less but better. Cheers to 2016!

Toronto Fall Concert Series

August was on the brink of September.

September is a blank page. Summer is winding down and as I am always looking forward, all I can see is Fall. And with it, the start of my favourite season. Packed with lots of birthdays, the greatest weather, the best holidays and a lead up to my ultimate favourite holdiay season-Christmas, and the best cold weather activity – concerts!

Toronto has a few really great shows coming up. Below are a few of my faves on the way.

Ratatat @ Sound Academy – September 2

The Fratellis @ Danforth Music Hall – September 16

Chvrches @ Danforth Music Hall – October 4 and 5 -> Apparently sold out but I’m looking into it.

Coeur De Pirate @ Phoenix – October 7

Blitzen Trapper @ Horseshoe – October 9

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness @ Danforth Music Hall – November 15

I’ll update the list as new shows are added. Get your tickets early and often. My two favourite ticket vendors: Soundscapes and Rotate This. Both are cash only, so hit the ATM beforehand. I guarantee there’s something for everyone.

Dot Com Boom

I finally caved and bought www.maggiedebarra.com!

Notes

For a long time on my About Me page, I had written “Maybe one day I’ll buy my own web domain and stop doing everything for free. But that day is not today.” Well, my friends, that day is today. Well this year really. I bit the bullet and bought www.maggiedebarra.com and www.maggiedebarra.ca! Using my fantastic computer skills, I even re-directed MaggiedeBarra.ca to MaggiedeBarra.com and I mapped my WordPress blog to MaggiedeBarra.com! Does this make sense to you? It does to me! I owe it all to my many hours spent back in high school hacking websites to copy and modify their code.

I really do enjoy the structure and style of WordPress and I am happy to continue using their publishing platform. I used GoDaddy as a host because Diggnation brainwashed me many years ago. In addition to these new matters, I even updated my Theme to give it a mini face lift!

What’s in a Name?

This blog has been Paper Clips for so long. Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra. It just makes sense to me. It sounds and feels so familiar! I couldn’t bear to change it. I did run through many other possible names (I wanted to call it In Medias Res back in third year, though I couldn’t seem to make it work…) but I kept coming back to this one. That or simply calling it MAGGIE DE BARRA, which sounds ever more pretentious and narcissistic than owning a website that is simply your first and last name dot com. And so, I will continue using Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra as my go-to until another name strikes me, or I get a cease and desist order!

To Blogue or Not to Blogue

I think one reason why I waited for so long is because, in addition to being extremely clumsy, I’m really shy! I am. With minor online exhibitionist tendencies in the form of public tweets and private instagram photos, but at the heart of it, I am shy.

I remember reading somewhere: It’s not personal branding, it’s just living your life online. And yes, my generation is doing just that. Your online presence is a mural, and every tweet, photo, and post is another brush stroke.

I thought for a long time that if I could hide behind maggiedebarra.wordpress.com it meant that I was projecting to the world that I was not really serious, that I could stop at any time, and that I’m simply indulging an odd, online hobby. But, attaching my name, and throwing a few dollars consideration at it, that means I am proclaiming, loudly: Hello, world! This is really me and I am serious. I am still shy, but I’m working on it.

Type-Casting

For a long time this website had been a “student life” blog, documenting my experiences as a college and university student between 2008-2012 (what a nice time capsule!). Since I am now a young, urban, working professional, it has really morphed into something totally unique. It is not a millennial blog, or a fashion+beauty blog, or a foodie blog, or a music blog. As much as I’d like it to be, it is not my dream Modern, Moderate Feminism Blog (#modfem). I write about my life and experiences and things that are interesting and important to me. I write a lot about Canada and Toronto because they are the centres of my universe.

One term that I have always loved is “hyper-local”. I came across this term when it was applied to a few Ottawa blogs back in university. They would cover all the local goings-on: restaurants, concerts, cafes, shops, and local politics. They weren’t exactly travel blogs, but they’d be worth checking out if you were going for a visit to learn all about the cool local spots.

And so, I think in 2015 I think I will try to write more about the people, places, and things I love, and to embrace the hyper-locality of it all!

If You Aren’t Outraged, Then You Just Aren’t Paying Attention

Ignorance is Bliss.

Not Afraid

I understand, I think, for the first time why most people prefer those sugar-coated, mind-numbing movies and TV shows packed with celebrities and other pleasant things.

Watching the National last night, I realized that Peter Mansbridge and his guests were not discussing the possibility that this is our “new normal” – they were confirming the obvious. An over-used term, but still applicable. These recent attacks, homegrown and ruthless, in Ottawa, in Sydney, and now in Paris are horrific and terrifying, to me anyway. I feel like we are all at risk now. This is our normal, we of the post 9-11 generation. Which city will be next and when? London, Washington, Berlin, Rome, Tokyo? Toronto has been spared for now, but for how long?

I remember learning in journalism school that therapists and journalists have higher levels of something like secondary PTSD. While they may not be experiencing these events first-hand, their exposure to first-hand accounts on a regular basis can generate a wave of similar symptoms.

Watching all these news programs, reading these articles (some fantastically well-written, answering the questions I didn’t think to ask), following the chaos of Twitter – it can be exhausting. I found relief last night during the commercial breaks of the National, with previews for silly shows about space, animals, and consumer trends. It was like a dose of comfort before getting back in the ring when the program started again. I felt like a character in Brave New World, but it wasn’t taking hits of Soma that made me feel better, it was television. And with it, the promise of a familiar-but-novel distraction, spread to the masses to keep us somewhat entertained, but mostly chained to our couches, away from the news, newspapers, books, and somewhere out there, the truth.

Bonnaroo Expansion Heads North!

Canadian music fans won’t have to travel too far this summer to get a piece of the festival circuit.

Update 14/02/2015: For more information on WayHome and the lineup, click here.

Lolla

Summer is made for cottages, road trips, baseball, patios, and concerts! The National Post is reporting that Bonnaroo has confirmed a Canadian expansion of their popular music festival! I’ve been following these rumours for a while now, and I’ve been hoping for a Toronto/Ontario music festival for ages!

I’m a two-time Lollapalooza alum, and it would take a lot to get me out there again. It’s about a 12 hour drive from Toronto, plus tickets + accommodations + food. It’s hard on your vacation time and your wallet.

The US has Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and more in the summer. Up here we really only have Boots & Hearts (all country music-not really my thing) and Osheaga in Montreal. I’ve never been to Osheaga because both Osh and Lolla usually fall on the same Civic Holiday Weekend each year.

This festival will take place one week earlier – clever – and will run from July 24 – 26, 2015 at the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds (home of Boots & Hearts) near Orillia, about an hour north of Toronto.

Coachella just released their lineup today, so we can bet most of these bands will be playing the summer festival circuit. Some good ones on the list: AC/DC, Tame Impala, Jack White, the Weeknd, alt-j, Ratatat, Father John Misty, Drake (headlining!), Florence and the Machine, David Guetta, Brand New (high school nostalgia), and more.

Looks like a good mix of genres and popular/indie bands. Happy to see Toronto represented by two major players- the Weeknd and Drake. Interesting that Drake is closing Sunday. He started from the bottom and now he is at the top of the headliners for Coachella. We’ll probably see a lot of overlap at Osheaga, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Bonnaroo North or whatever they decide to call this new festival. More to come!

Update 14/01/2015: Bonnaroo has released their lineup here. No word yet on #BonnarooNorth.