Stories About Exercise; A Life Update

Last week I accompanied my mum to my first ever Zumba class. I’m sure most of you have heard of Zumba. Essentially, it is a Latin dance inspired workout. It is primarily a cardio workout but less intense than say running.

Recently my mum has decided that she wants to incorporate more fitness into her life. When she first started going to the gym she only went to Body Pump classes (weight lifting repetitions with low weight). While these classes made her muscles shake see didn’t see much improvement in her overall body shape. I told her that she needs to mix it up and add some cardio to her routine. I strongly believe that the only way to workout is to do a little bit of everything. So now she is making an effort to go to all sorts of different classes.

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She invited me to Zumba for a unique mother/daughter bonding experience. It was fun! The whole class had a carefree, energetic atmosphere. I especially loved the Latin music. However, I found myself getting frustrated with myself when I couldn’t pick up the combinations fast enough. It has been a number of years since I’ve danced but I still expect myself to be able to pick up choreography quickly.  Sadly, that isn’t necessarily the case. But all in all I enjoyed spending time getting fit with my mama.

I don't have a photo of us from Zumba but here is a picture of us from August 2010.
I don’t have a photo of us from Zumba but here is a picture of us from August 2010.

In addition to Zumba I have been focused on my outdoor running. On Sunday afternoon and on Monday night my friend Mel and I ran 3.5km outside together. I am really happy with the pace that we moved at. I had to slow down a few times but on average I think we kept a pretty constant speed. I didn’t measure this though so I really cannot be sure…

Either way I am loving the feeling of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair while I run. I should get an app to track my speed and distance but at the moment I am just focused on being comfortable outside as a runner. Having a running buddy has helped immensely! Mel is a better runner than I am so she can basically chat to me about things while we run and when we slow our pace I can answer back. This keeps me distracted when I start to feel tired. I also hate to feel like I’m taking away from her workout by going slow so I push myself harder so that she can get the most of the workout too.

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We both have super busy schedules but hopefully we can find the time to continue running together often. Even though I haven’t even done my first 5k race (its on Sunday, only 5 more sleeps!) I have already signed up for a second 5k race that is taking place in June! Obviously I’ve got some confidence in myself. My plan for the second one is to beat my time of the first one (which is yet to be determined).

Wish me luck!

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Tourists Guide to the World: Capua & Casserta, Italy

I love Europe. I really do.  I love the history that is on display in the middle of bustling cities. I love Canada too but it is so young by comparison. There are no royal palaces or crumbling gladiator areas in Toronto. That scenery is unique to Europe and perhaps also Asia.

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One of our day trips while we were in Italy was to the neighboring cities of Capua and Caserta.

The first stop of the day was the gladiators training arena in Capua. This arena was where the gladiators fought before making their way over to Rome. It is basically a smaller version of the Roman Colosseum. The outside is pretty crumbled but they have done a good job at preserving the inside and below ground passages.

An underground passage of the amphitheater.
An underground passage of the amphitheater.
Lucas' dad giving us his best Gladiator pose.
Lucas’ dad giving us his best Gladiator pose.

I think one of the reasons the outside is literally turning to dust is because the government cannot afford to upkeep the place. I find this incredibly sad as it is a beautiful piece of history. This place isn’t like Rome. There were no lines. It only cost us 2 Euro each to go in. And there was only 1  other couple there at the same time as us. (by comparison we waited for 30 minutes to get into the Roman Colosseum, it was crowded and it cost 16 Euro per person). In a way I loved that we had the time and space to explore but I hate to think that this place just be a pile of rubble one day.

A side by side replica of the amphitheater as it looks today and when it was originally built.
A side by side replica of the amphitheater as it looks today and when it was originally built.
The outer ring of the arena.
The outer ring of the arena.
Standing in the middle of the area. Can you imagine how much blood was shed here?!
Standing in the middle of the area. Can you imagine how much blood was shed here?!
A view of the outer wall from afar.
A view of the outer wall from afar.

Our next stop was the Reggia Palace in Casserta or the Royal Palace. This place was absolutely stunning! It was set up kind of like an art museum. You walked from room to room. Some rooms where set up with paintings, others filled with furniture, other rooms were works of are entirely on their own.

The Reggia Palace in Casserta
The Reggia Palace in Casserta
A Bed fit for a Princess
A Bed fit for a Princess
The library! My favourite room in the house!
The library! My favourite room in the house!
Check out that candle holder...
Check out that candle holder.

I had a million more pictures. Seriously I took pictures of EVERYTHING. But I can only photo drop so many pictures before people get sick of me. Take my word, it was an exceptional day trip. I learned a ton and saw so many beautiful things. So if your looking for things to do in Italy outside of Rome I recommend a visit to both of these wonderful spots. 

An Open Letter to Kiss 92.5 FM – RE: Roz & Mocha Talk About A Woman Who Was Accused of Sleeping with the Entire Wu-Tang Clan on Divorce Court

Dear Kiss 92.5 FM, specifically Roz and Mocha:

Some of the things said in your Wu-Tang Clan Divorce Court segment caused me frustration and anger. It reached the point where I was forced to turn off the radio because I was so upset. Normally I enjoy listening to Roz and Mocha in the morning. Their banter is clever and witty and it makes for very good radio. However in this particular segment the opinions expressed by Roz were misogynistic and exceptionally sexist. This is a problem for me because as a public broadcaster Kiss 92.5 has a strong influence over its listeners.

Let me explain; There was an episode of Divorce Court where a woman was accused of sleeping of the entire Wu-Tang Clan. Whether she did or did not do that is irrelevant. What matters to me is the discussion the followed. Roz said, and I quote “if you have somebody in your life that you care about you have no business, I don’t care how big of a fan you are, you have no business going to a show and going backstage”. Mocha then rebutted by saying that it would be cool to meet your favourite celebrity . This is when Roz said “no, no, we’re not talking about you. We’re talking about your girl“.

So the woman in a relationship, according to Roz, cannot meet her favourite celebrity without disrespecting her partner.

You have got to be kidding me!

This opinion is not only way out dated but it is incredibly misogynistic. Why as a man is it fine to go back stage? But as a woman it is inappropriate and disrespectful? Because Roz is objectifying the woman. She is an object which belongs to her man. She is your girl. And when she makes her own choices she is disrespecting you. Enjoying a night out, meeting her favoruite celebrities, having an experience of a life time are independent choices that a woman does not have the right to make if she belongs to a man. This is the underlying message in Roz’s opinion.

Objectification. Ownership. Control. Dominance. Disrespect. Sexism.

What began as playful banter about a strange and funny television clip took a sharp sexist turn as soon as Roz uttered the words “We are talking about your girl“. Many people probably didn’t even notice that his statements were entrenched in misogynistic ideals. Even more people probably agreed with him. And this is the problem. When misogynistic statements are broadcasted by public figures they are blindly accepted as the norm without a second thought. And this is why the feminist movement still has such a long way to go.

I understand that the premise of the Roz and Mocha show is contrasting opinions. It riles people up. It invites them to call in. But when every caller is saying the same thing as Roz it is a major issue. Having statements and opinions such as these broadcasted on the radio perpetuates gender inequality. All men, all women, all humans are equal beings And that is not something that should ever be up for debate.

Equality of gender means that we should all share the same rights. Be it the ability to vote, the ability to work inside or outside of the home, or the ability to go back stage at a concert. If it is disrespectful for a woman to do then it is also disrespectful for a man. If it is totally cool for a man to do then it is also totally cool for a women.

It is 2015, we live in Canada; a forward thinking society. So Kiss 92.5, Roz, Mocha I am asking you get on board with gender equality and start broadcasting that message.

Thank you,

Alexandra Folkes

Toronto, ON, Canada

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I have seriously been neglecting the blog recently. Life has been exceptionally hectic over the past two weeks. I have had virtually no free time and in the free time I have had I’ve been watching The Mindy Project. Following the antics of Mindy’s made for tv life has become a full fledged obsession. mindyIn addition to binge watching the most hilarious woman on netflix, I have been running. A lot. In preparation for my race which is in 13 days! I have been working, a lot. We are launching into our spring run of shows here at the Opera. So the amount of parties and events that are happening is overwhelming. I have been reading, a lot. At this pace I’ll be finished my 50 book goal in no time! And lastly, I have been cooking! Not a lot, but more than normal!

So many excuses, so little time. Lets break it down for a moment.

Running

giphyThis weekend I ran outside for the first time since I started training for my 5k. I was incredibly nervous. When using a treadmill I think it can be hard to tell if you have made progress or not. I knew I had improved but as the running intervals got longer I found it more and more challenging to keep going. I figured that I had reached my limit. WRONG. I had reached my indoor limit. My outdoor limit is a whole other thing!

So on Saturday I grabbed my friend Melanie and we hit the pavement. Having Mel there really helped because she motivated me to keep going. Yesterday, I ran outside again, on my own this time. I ran a short route that I used to do last summer. Back then I was out of shape and untrained. I couldn’t run the whole thing without stopping to catch my breath at least once. Yesterday I did the whole thing without stopping and at a decently quick pace! Thee cheers for progress!

Work

Very briefly, my job in lamest terms is fundraising. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that a huge part of fundraising is donor appreciation. Here at the opera we appreciate our donors with exclusive events. Behind-the-scenes type stuff. I actually really enjoy working these events because it gives me the chance to get to know our donors and learn more about the works we are presenting on the stage. In addition to working all the swanky parties I also work some of the shows at the welcome desk. Basically I’m just there to trouble shoot questions and engage with the donors. Between the parties and the shows I’ve had a lot of late nights. But I don’t mind too much because I really like this aspect of my job and it’s only for a short period of time.

Reading

One of my many goals for 2015 was to read 50 books this year. It is nearing the end of downloadApril and I just finished book number 11! I am thrilled with my progress and I have really enjoyed expanding my literary horizons. In addition to reading 50 books I have been making an effort to pick books that are outside of my comfort zone. The book I read most recently was a memoir by a Canadian woman named Amanda Lindhout, the book was called A House in the Sky. True story, while working as a freelance journalist in Somalia Amanda and her partner were kidnapped and held for ransom for over a year. Her experience was a traumatic nightmare but *spoiler alert* she lived to tell the tale. This book was truly amazing. Terrifying and inspirational all at the same time. I encourage everyone to read this fantastic book.

If anyone has a good book recommendation I would greatly appreciate it! Share in the comments!

Cooking

Lucas’s mum just celebrated her birthday and I needed a way to say both happy birthday and thank you for accepting me into your family. But what do you buy for someone who has everything already (especially if your on a budget). Answer: you don’t. Instead you make dinner. So I made a pretty decent vegetarian meal featuring sweet potato, carrots, green beans, rice, soy beans and chic peas. I’ll be posting the recipes next week so stay tuned.

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And this week it is just me and Lucas so I made dinner last night. I forgot to take pictures but I made tomato stuffed chicken breast, sweet potato mash and an arugula salad. This meal also turned out to be pretty darn delicious! It feels good to receive praise for my cooking since I’m really not confident in that department. I’ve also made a few batches of cookie recently. mmmm cookies.


So there you have it! That is why I have been neglecting my internet wonder. But I will do my very best not to be so distant in the future.

What activities have been occupying your time recently? Share in the comments!

It’s my birthday, I will brag if I want to!

That is how the song goes right!? Kidding, I know the lyrics are cry if I want to. But I do not want to cry. I want to sing with joy because my friends and family are so spectacular! They made my birthday (which was on Tuesday) so special and they made me feel so loved and important. So I am going to brag and share and shout it to the hill tops!

Fun fact: My dad and I actually share the same birthday. Yup, you got that right. I was the best birthday gift he ever got. So on Monday night Lucas and I went to my house for dinner. This was when we got to do our annual Easter egg hunt. Then we had a lovely dinner, I got to choose the meal this year and I picked tacos. And after dinner we did presents and cake!

IMG_6189I got my dad (and my brother) tickets to a spring Blue Jays Game. And my parents got me a shopping spree, by that I mean that my mum is taking me shopping. Both my personal style and body are changing, so she figured it was best if I picked out my own things.

On Tuesday, I had to wake up and go to work like normal which was kind of a bummer.IMG_6190 But my co-worker, Bree, made it more exciting by bringing me a box of donuts from Tim Horton’s! Let me take a second to tell you about donuts. As a general rule I only eat donuts if I am celebrating something. It makes them special. So when I got the lead in the school show, donut. When I got accepted to my post graduate program, donut. When I got a job after graduation, donut! So Bree decided that a birthday was worth celebrating and got me some donuts!

At our office we do this thing where who ever had their birthday before you has to celebrate your birthday. So around 3pm I was surprised with a lovely home baked cake! Cherry Chip! It was actually so effing delicious. I can’t even. Also, it was a cake… Shaped like a cup cake! It literally does not get cuter than that!

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IMG_6193 Birthday girl has to cut the cake!

On Tuesdays I have choir rehearsal, so instead of going home I had time to kill. Normally I go to the gym on Tuesdays before choir but my desire to exercise on my bday was nill. So I went out for dinner with one of my best friends, Karin, instead.

Really funny story about dinner. We went to a chair restaurant called Swiss Chalet. Nothing special but its a classic. So Karin says for my birthday she will buy me a drink. She asks the waitress what cocktails are available. The waitress, who speaks very little english, says there are none… Okay, so Karin asks for two Shirley Temples with a shot of rum on the side for each of us. The woman comes back with the drinks, the shots and cups of ice. I guess she thought we might have the rum on the rocks. Instead we poured the liquor into those Shirley Temples. She stares at us, looking very confused, and says “where did it go?!” Ummmm its in the drink… “But I don’t see it!?” It was adorable and hilarious all at the same time. We tried to explain that we mixed it in but I’m not sure she understood.

At dinner Karin gave me an adorable gift. It was owl themed. A stunning owl card, lip balm in owl packaging, an owl eraser and an owl bookmark! The bookmark was the best part because I love reading and it looks super good in my book.

During Choir the whole choir sang happy birthday to me. It was beautiful! Then after choir Lucas and his friend Taylor picked us up and we went for a drink at a bar around the corner. Taylor dropped us off at home around 10:30pm. I was surprised to find both Lucas’s parents awake, the front hall decorated, gifts and cheese cake!!

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One of my other best friends, Katie, had dropped off a gift for me. It was an owl shaped mug! I really like owls. And the mug was filled with candy! Which is all gone now…

Lucas’s parents got me a brand new blender! They wanted to get me something for when I move out on my own in the fall (more on that another day). I have all of the basic appliances from my student days and now I have a fancy blender to make soups and smoothies!

Last but certainly not least, Lucas had what he called a verbal gift for me. Meaning that he told me what we were going to do for my birthday but didn’t have a physical gift. Here is what he said: When my work schedule calms down in May we are going to go on a little staycation. We are going to use AirBnB to rent a nice condo in Toronto and spend the weekend living the city life. We are going to walk to the CN tower, maybe visit the ROM, visit the market. Lucas is going to cook me a fancy Chef Cugini meal one night and we can enjoy some expensive champagne! He then proceeded to pull the said bottle of champagne out from under his pillow. I am so excited for this romantic stay-at-home-getaway weekend! I want April to fly by! We spent some time on AirBnB last night and we booked this fantastic condo. It is sleek and modern and still homey.

In addition to all of that so many friends were texting, calling and messaging me with well wishes and love. It was a really great day. I felt so happy and so loved! The best part?! The Birthday celebrations aren’t done yet! At the end of the month I am having a triple birthday party with Karin and Katie because they celebrate birthdays in April too!

What is your favourite part about birthdays?! Share in the comments!

Running Update: It’s all in your head

The last two weeks have been… not great. To be honest. I could give you a long list of reasons excuses but in reality I’ve just been to lazy to put in the extra time and effort. Yes, my schedule is busy but 30 minutes is only 2% of my day and everyone has enough time for that.

Some of my excuses are more legit than others. I mean, it was my birthday and I deserved giphy (1)a day off but the 6 days prior that I also took off… wellllll like as I said, lazy! Yesterday I forced myself to get up and be active. I’ve only got 3 weeks until my 5k run and I want to be prepared!

I was really nervous when I got to the gym yesterday. I was worried that my “time off” would have knocked back my progress. I thought about doing a couch-to-5k workout that I had already completed to ease myself back into it. But then I thought, no. Just do it. Move to the next level and if you fail, you fail.

The structure was 5 minute warm up walk, 8 minute run, 5 minute brisk walk, 8 minute run, cool down.

The first 8 minute run was way WAY easier than I expected! Remember, due to Canada still being damn freezing I am running inside on a treadmill. Because I was worried about the longer interval times I decided to run at a slower pace. Usually I run at 6.6 or 6.7 but yesterday I ran at 6.4 and I think this made a big difference.

The second 8 minute run was obviously more challenging. I still did better than I had anticipated though. But at the 3 minutes remaining mark I suddenly felt like quitting. Out of nowhere my leg muscles tensed up and my breathing became ragged. I seriously considered slowing to a walk and then I said to myself “no! What the hell are you doing? Thinking about giving up? Not a chance. You can do this!” I actually said you can do this out loud.

And guess what… I did it.

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Of course my body was tired but I am a strong able bodied person, the difference between success and failure had nothing to do with my strength, it was all about my determination. It was all in my head. As soon as my brain decided that I was tired it was almost impossible to keep going. But as soon as I changed my thoughts I had more than enough energy to keep going.

Knowing this and practicing this will make a huge difference on run day. Now I just need to practice my happy thoughts. It’s like Peter Pan says, think happy thoughts and you will fly!

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The Hunt

As with most holidays, Easter traditions are different for different families and different people. For my family it is all about The Hunt. The Easter Egg Hunt, that is!

easter-bunny When Lucas was a kid the hunt was bunch of foil eggs and mini eggs hidden around the house for the kids to find. The only rule was that everyone had to stay in the same room at the same time.

IMG_6171My egg hunt does not look like that. It is much more complex. Here is how it works. The Easter bunny leaves each person a basket with a single coloured, plastic egg. Inside that egg is chocolate and a clue. The clue leads you to the next egg and so on and so forth. You follow the clues until the hunt ends with a small gift. Usually socks or a t-shirt, or gift cards.

My mum has been setting up this elaborate hunt for me and my siblings since before I could read. In the beginning she would draw pictures clues, like a bed or a tv. Now here I am in my twenties and she is still leaving us clues. This year she even prepared a hunt for Lucas and we don’t even live there! She is so fantastic. I didn’t realize it as a kid but the effort she puts into holidays like this really proves just how amazing, dedicated and loving my mother is.

This year she and my dad spent a lot of time brainstorming challenging clues. I got stumped on this one:

Yes, yes there is a spelling mistake... move on.
Yes, yes there is a spelling mistake… move on.

Any guesses? I had none. After reading the words beep beep I couldn’t not think of a car. Even though the clue blatantly told me it wasn’t the car. My dad helped with this lovely piece of advice. “Well what else has a trunk? An elephant! But we don’t have an elephant…” Thanks tips! The answer?! I know you are dying to know and my goodness I am embarrassed to tell you…

IMG_6170A Tree! A Tree has a trunk! 

I bet you all knew the answer straight away. Lets say that the adrenaline was clouding my brain. Anyway, Lucas and I had a blast tearing through the house looking for eggs! This is a family tradition that I hope will always be a part of my family.

What are your Easter Traditions?! Share in the comments!

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DIY: Wine Bottle Picture Frame

Wow. Hello! It’s been a while! That is because I have been very busy in the real world. Choir practice, choreographing, dinners out, Easter, birthday parties and a little DIY.

You see almost everyone I know is born in the spring. March and April have a lot going on in terms of birthdays. I simply cannot afford to buy a gift for each and every one of my friends. So I decided it was time to get creative. Thanks to the search term “best friend DIY gifts” Pinterest was able to provide some fantastic inspiration.

A Wine Bottle Picture Frame

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Unfortunately the Pin did not link to a blog so all I have is this photo.

This person (whoever they are… The pin didn’t link to a blog. Just the photo) used rhinestones to decorate their bottle. I loved the idea but hated the blingy-ness. I’m all for a little sparkle but too much becomes tacky really fast. So I decided to go a different route and use buttons.

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This was a relatively inexpensive project. All I needed was a wine bottle, a picture, buttons, Mod Podge and Gem Tac Glue. I found everything that I needed at the craft store Michael’s.

IMG_6112Step One: Stick the Photo to the bottle. I started by curving the edges of the photo so that it would sit nicely on the bottle. Then I used two coats of Mod Podge to make it stick!

IMG_6114Step Two: Use the Gem Tac to glue on your buttons or rhinestones or whatever you choose. I noticed that I had to go small sections at a time because the glue needed to dry flat or else the buttons would slip around.

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Note: I decided to leave space between my buttons intentionally but you could always squish them a little closer together if you wanted to.

Step Three: Once all the buttons are glued down let the bottle sit for at least 24 hours. Then enjoy a beautiful & unique picture frame!

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What would you use to decorate your wine bottle picture frame??! Share in the comments!