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!

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!

The 2015 Christmas Card Guide

It is the most wonderful time of the year and these are the
most wonderful Christmas and Holiday Cards. 

The 2015 Christmas Card Guide

Drake Sleigh Bells Ring // USD $4.60 – BEYGOODco // Etsy

Drake If You’re Reading This Merry Christmas // USD $4.21 – WacaFlockaLuke // Etsy

Oh What Fun

Oh What Fun! // Set of 12 for $10.46 // Chapters

Let It Snow

Let It Snow // USD $4.00 – TurtlesSoup // Etsy

Droids in Sweaters

Droids In Sweaters // USD $4.13 – MeetMeInShermer // Etsy

Cat Tree

Cat Christmas Tree // USD $3.74 – BeccyKittyDesigns // Etsy

Winter Wonderland

Watercolour Fawn Winter Wonderland // Set of 15 for $10.46 // Etsy

Winter Brownstone

Snowy Brownstone // CAD $6.50 // Room 2046

Hockey

After School Hockey // Set of 20 for $11.19 // Chapters

Jingle All The Way

Jingle All The Way // Set of 12 for $9.06 // Chapters

The 100 Mile March

How to quantify your goals and measure your success.

image

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!

Ottawa: Unplugged

Getting back to basics in the Nation’s Capital.

I spent the weekend in Ottawa. It was great to visit my sister and a lot of friends who still live there. As the Duggars would say, I really enjoyed their fellowship.

The strangest thing about the weekend was how old-fashioned and low-tech it was! Lots of board games, some sweet tunes on the record player, cooking, baking and sharing food with each other, cat’s cradle (it’s coming back) and a whole lot of laughs and stories shared between us.

My favourite thing about Ottawa in the winter has got to be the Rideau Canal. We had perfect ice conditions on Sunday.

Rideau Canal

It really was a great weekend, and I’m still on cloud nine. I feel recharged and ready to get back to homework. It was just what I needed to help me get through school for another month until reading week.

 

Carleton University Flash Mob

Best students. Best campus community. Best school spirit. Best life.

I am an extremely proud Carleton University grad.

On February 15th about 400 Carleton students gathered on the Rideau Canal for a brilliant flash mob.

The flash mob was organized by Graeme Owens as part of the Blackberry Best Life contest. More info here. Donations are being accepted to the Ottawa Mission. To donate click here.

The story has been picked up by CTV news, the Globe and Mail, and even Premier Dalton McGuinty has been tweeting about it.

Good luck to Graeme! And a huge congrats to everyone who participated.

40 Years on the Canal

This is about the most “Canadian” that Ottawa can get.

Hopefully the weather will stop being so moody, and the Rideau Canal will open up again soon.

Looking for The Iron Heel

Searching, in vain, for Jack London in Ottawa.

I spent a good three hours walking around tonight looking for a copy of The Iron Heel by Jack London. It is the first of five novels on the reading list for my english class. Every other student must have been proactive about getting books for this class, because all these stores (all nine of them!) were out of stock.

Octopus Books – Bank Street and Third Avenue
Patrick McGahern Books – Bank Street and Third Avenue
Dragon Tail Bookshop – Bank Street and Fourth Avenue
Book Bazaar – Bank Street and Frank Street
The Book Company – Bank Street and Slater Street
Chapters – Rideau Street and Sussex Drive
Sunnyside Bookshop – Dalhousie Street and Murray Street
Argosy Books –  Dalhousie Street and Guigues Avenue
The Book Market – Dalhousie Street and Rideau Street

Can’t believe I walked this far in the cold only to come home empty handed. On the bright side, the War Memorial looked so pretty tonight:

Update 01/26/10:
I took out the map pictures. Nine photos of Google map screenshots is excessive. I did end up getting The Iron Heel from Octopus Books. My review: don’t even bother reading this one. It is socialist propaganda parading around as a novel. It’s less than 300 pages and it took forever to get through. I didn’t enjoy it at all! Our next book, Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov is even more tough to read. I thought I was good at this kind of thing: reading, thinking, reflecting. Guess not.  

  

The Farley Mowat Fence

Snow. Owls in the Family. Exams.

I took these on the way to my (FIRST and ONLY) winter exam! I’m kind of amazed at all the snow in Ottawa. Toronto is severly lacking. I hope it looks like this in Toronto for Christmas.

One more take-home exam to finish up tomorrow and then I’m home free for Christmas break.

(Don’t know if I’m feeling these grey scale pictures but there’s a first time for everything!)