Happy CANADA Day!!!

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians! There are so many things about this country that are amazing. Seriously, I’m not just saying that! Canada is awesome! So today, I am sharing some of my favourite places and things about Canada. Hopefully it will inspire you to visit!

Toronto, Ontario

Home Sweet Home. Toronto is one of the country’s largest cities and acts as a major cultural hub. I couldn’t even begin to list all the hot spots and attractions available but to name a few. The Skydome Rogers Centre home to the Toronto Blue Jays! The iconic CN tower. Ripley’s aquarium. The Royal Ontario Museum. The Art Gallery of Ontario. See an Opera or a Ballet at the Four Seasons Centre. There is more! So much more but there isn’t room in this post. I’ll do a more fullsum and detailed post about Toronto eventually.

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Ripley’s Aquarium. Me & me stingray friend.
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That is the CN tower above our heads!

British Columbia

My only visit to BC took place over 8 years ago so my details are a bit rusty.. I was also traveling there for a choral festival so I spent most of my trip in a classroom learning music. But we did have the opportunity to visit the famous Capilano Bridge. It is basically a simple suspension bridge, except its 140 meters long and is suspended 70 meters above a river. Exciting & scary all at the same time! I definitely plan on going back to BC one day.

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The Capilano Bridge.

St. John’s, Newfound Land

St. John’s might be one of my favourite places in the whole world. It is by far my favourite place in Canada. The city was stunning. The eastern peak is the farthest east you can be in North America. The whole city smells like sea salt, theres hills all over the place. Quaint little houses. Everything is just so peaceful and calm there. Once again I was traveling there for choir and didn’t get to do half as much sight seeing as I would have liked but I did get to go whale watching!

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Niagara Falls

One of the world’s wonders. The falls and the surrounding area are beautiful. My most recent visit was in the winter so going on a wine tour was out of the question and everything was pretty frozen but still breathtakingly beautiful. Niagara on the lake is also home to the Shaw festival! A fantastic summer theatre festival that runs every year.

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The icy cold falls

The Stratford Festival

The Stratford Festival is my favourite theatre company. Located in (you guessed it) Stratford, Ontario this company started by presenting some of the best Shakespeare in North America. Now the festival (which runs from May to October) presents all sorts of theatre and musical theatre and it always unbelievably amazing. I try to get up there to see a show every year if I can.

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Alex & Mum at King Lear, 2014

White Christmas

Most of the time I hate the cold but it is always nice to have some snow at Christmas time and luckily Canada always has some snow and cold weather for us around the holidays (and long after).

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Cutting down the Folkes Family Christmas Tree

They let my Mama in!

Fun fact: My mum was born and raised in England! She moved to Canada when she was in her twenties, met my dad and never left. But it was only a year and a half ago that she applied for her Canadian Citizenship! It was a very exciting time for my family. She studied really hard for a long time and got 100% on her test. The best part was seeing her receive her certificate.

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Canadian Mama Folkes!

The Cottage

Our cottage is in Muskoka, the true north! It is amazing to be so close to nature all the time. Just a short hour and a half car ride and you are surrounded by trees and water and pure Canadian bliss. I prefer cottaging to camping because you get to sleep and pee indoors but you still get your fill of the great outdoors.

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The Best Part?

The people, obviously. The stereotype of Canadians being nice people exists for a reason. But I suppose I am slightly biased. But seriously, I love my home. I love Canada. Happy Canada Day, everyone!!! True. North. Strong.

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Canada Day 2010
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Thoughts I had while running my first ever 5k

“Wow, there are a lot of people here…”

“Holy shit I was not expecting this many people!”

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“Is that a 10 year old? Wait, Is that a 5 year old? Why are there so many children here?”

“Go? Oh go! Alright! Lets do this!

“…I guess when there are this many people all packed together it’s slow at the start”

“Oh look, there’s Lucas! Should I wave? Smile? Wink? Alight awkward nervous smile it is.”

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“Man I am so lucky, he is the best! It is 8 am and he is here cheering me on. I love Lucas. I should remember to tell him that later.”

“alright, now we are moving! Focus Alex! Lets start with a light jog. Start steady, finish strong.”

“Did another child just ran past me? Why are these children so fit?” Am I going to be beaten by a 10 year old? Probably. Gawd that’s pathetic.”

“Shut up, brain! The kids don’t matter. This is about you. Focus. Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. One. Two. One. Two.”

“Hey look! 2k down! Only 3 to go! Easy peasy!

“Me and this girl in white have been beside each other for a while now. She has a good pace. I’m gonna stick with her. She doesn’t know it but she is my running buddy.”

“3k and girl in white is picking up the pace. You are right running buddy, we can totally push ourselves a little harder now.”

“Do I see water in the distance?! Omgsh I do! An excuse to slow down, thank goodness!”

“ew. This is Gatorade.”

“Oh no! The girl in white is way ahead now! I guess taking a moment to walk now would be okay. So long girl in white…”

“Actually, NO! I am fine! My breathing is okay. My muscles are okay. But I’m fine! In fact I am great! There is only 1k left! I’m coming for ya girl in white!”

“Sup girl”

“omg! I can see the finish line! Omg omg omg! I am so close! I ran the whole time! and now I am almost at the finish! This is amazing!”

“20 steps and I am over the finish line! Finish strong Alex! You can do this!”

IMG_6388“Oh my goodness! I really did it! I just ran 5k!”

“Hi Lucas! Oh my gosh he is so adorable! Look at me, I did it!”

“Oh there is the girl in white! I must thank her for motivating me to keep running the whole time!”

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“So nice to meet you, Shilpa! It’s your first run too?! Well you were amazing! Wait, I motivated you?! You motivated me! Let’s take a picture!”

“Free bananas? Why yes, I would love a banana!”

“Ahhhhh! I am so proud of myself!”

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“33 minutes?! My time was only 33 minutes! That is so much better than I had expected!

“A medal?! I get a medal?! I’ve never had a medal before! Check me out!”

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“That was awesome! I can’t wait for the next one! Go me!”

ONCE; A New Musical

Happy hump day! I hope everyone is feeling alive and well in the aftermath of St. Patrick’s day. When I was in university St. Paddy’s was a big deal. Anyone and everyone busted out their green and went overboard on green beer. It was fun while it lasted but out in the real world that type of behavior is totally inappropriate for a weekday, weekends are still fair game though.

This year, instead of celebrating the luck o’ the Irish with booze, Lucas and I decided to celebrate with Irish music by seeing the musical production ONCE, at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. In addition to being a fun St.Pat’s date night activity, tickets to the show were one of my birthday gifts for Lucas.

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SPOILER ALERT: The remainder of this post may contain spoilers. Similar to how granola bars may contain peanuts. Basically I can’t make any promises…

Before the show Lucas and I decided to go for a nice dinner, because #datenight. We selected a restaurant called Baton Rouge. IMG_6045Lucas got a super delicious looking burger and fries. It had onion rings on it! Mmmmmm! And I got a grilled veggie sandwich and a green salad (eating out isn’t as fun when your not allowed to eat deep fried foods but it was still very delicious).

Then we went to the show! The Ed Mirvish Theatre is one of my favourite places to see theatre. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house (as long as you’ve got your glasses) and the architecture and design is just stunning! High arched ceilings, elegant stair cases, ruby red carpets and curtains! I’ve now seen 6 shows there!

Just for some context, here is the show description from the Mirvish website:

Set in modern day Dublin, ONCE is the story of a Guy who gave up on his music—and his love—and the Girl who inspired him to dream again. This irresistibly breathtaking production is performed by an extraordinary all-Canadian cast of actor-musicians who sing, dance and play their hearts out live on stage. Directed and choreographed by the brilliant team of Tony Award winner John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett, ONCE will dazzle you with its originality, wit and unforgettable music.

IMG_6041The stage was set to look like an Irish pub and during pre-show and intermission audience members were allowed to get beer and water from the working bar on stage! How neat is that?! While people lined up for drinks the performers danced around singing popular irish folk tunes. Talk about audience interaction! It perfectly set the mood for the show!

The music was excellent. Absolutely beautiful! Unlike traditional musicals the instruments were played by the singers/actors on stage. There were 2 violins, a cello,  multiple guitars, percussion, and a piano. All these instruments were onstage the entire time and always played by the cast. In many productions this would have been unsuccessful but it worked really well in the Irish pub atmosphere and it showcased the talent of this cast excellently.

Speaking of the cast, it is entirely Canadian! This is a big deal for me because I am extremely passionate about the growth of Canadian arts and culture. I strongly believe that the best way to grow our artistic scene to a larger scale is by having Canadian artists shine on Canadian stages. Because if Canada doesn’t showcase our talent why would anyone else. Annnnyway, the leads of ONCE were Ian Lake and Trish Lindström (Photographed below). They both did an excellent job of portraying their characters. A heart broken Irish man and a spunky, single mom from the Czech Republic.

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Photo from http://www.mirvish.com

 The downfall of this musical for me was the plot. ONCE is advertised as the love story to end all love stories and that is how it began. It had me getting all emotional and sappy. And then… the end happened. And while it was still beautiful it wasn’t at all what I expected. In fact it didn’t really feel like the ending at all. I was left with questions and confusion and a need for more. But I suppose that makes this musical more realistic than most. Instead of providing a clean cut happily ever after it provides an unsatisfying ending which is lacking closure, which is an accurate description to how most real life relationships are. That being said, it was beautiful, exceptionally beautiful. Even if it didn’t give me the cookie cutter ending I was craving.

For the record, Lucas also really enjoyed the show. He didn’t focus so much on the plot but rather the music. He said it felt more like a folk concert than a musical and he loved that. I wouldn’t be surprised if I come home to find the soundtrack on my iTunes.

All in all it was a fantastic way to access my inner Irish on St. Patrick’s day and it was a super fun, out of the ordinary date night. My final review: 4 Stars out of 5. If you are in the Toronto Area and you enjoy good music, I suggest going to see ONCE!

ONCE is on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until May 31st.

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Photo from http://www.mirvish.com

Jumping into the Skyzone

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Welcome to the Skyzone!

What did you do with your Saturday night? I spent mine at Skyzone, a massive indoor trampoline park! Basically it is a room just filled with trampolines. Trampoline basketball, trampoline dodge ball, trampoline foam pits. This place has it all.

Fun Fact! Trampolining for 1 hour can burn up to a thousand calories!

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For 20 bucks I got a pair of special orange trampoline socks, a slice of pizza, a can of pop and an hour and a half of jumping freedom. I had such a fun time because it was a really unique way for my friends and I to enjoy a Saturday night out! Normally a night out looks like late nights and empty calories but not at Skyzone! When your night out is at a trampoline park it means fitness and fun!

IMG_5947The weekend fitness didn’t stop there, either! On Sunday morning I woke up and went to a fantastic hot yoga class! The moves were all pretty basic but my body was sore from all the jumping and yoga provided just the stretch I needed. Then when I got home I was compelled to clean my apartment top to bottom. I have no idea what came over me this weekend. I was productive on Saturday with laundry, baking and vacuuming but I took it to the next level on Sunday. I gave my whole bathroom a much needed scrub down. My arms were aching afterwards but the streak free glass around my shower makes it so worth it, also biceps!

Have you ever visited a trampoline park? What non-traditional activities do you do to get fit?  Share in the comments!

10 Ways To Get Into The Christmas Spirit

It is December, people! I am not entirely sure how or when it happened but I am overjoyed because the holiday season has arrived! That being said, sometimes between work, finals, grey skies and over crowded shopping malls, it can be easier to say “bah hum bug” at this time of year. Fear not, friends! I have come up with 10 sure fire ways to get you into the holiday spirit this year and every year to come.


1. Go Ice Skating

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Celebration Square Out Door Ice Rink in Mississauga

Most outdoor ice rinks offer free or very cheap skating and some rinks even offer skate rentals. Skating is the type of activity that is great for dates or group hang outs. It is also a great way to get in some exercise during the season of cookies Christmas…

If you are in Toronto check out Nathan Phillips Square.


2. Build a Ginger Bread House

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Myself, Katie & Taylor – Dec 2013

This does not have to be complicated. Grab some friends and head over to your local grocery store. Ginger bread house kits basically come with four walls, a roof and icing. The rest is up to you! Let your creativity thrive!

The best part? When you’re done decorating, you have a delicious snack!


3. Play in the Snow

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This is only possible if you live in a colder climate, which I definitely do, because Canada. But seriously, brave the cold! Get outside! Embrace your inner child! Enjoy nature! There are so many snow related activities, it could be a list of it’s own. Build a snow man, go tobogganing, go skiing, make a snow angel… The possibilities are endless.


4. Take a Walk & Look at the Lights

Tree branches and trunks wrapped in festive lights.

Is there anything more beautiful than a display of Christmas lights? Personally, I love the twinkle and sparkle of bright lights on a cold, dark night.

My favourite? Lights on trees. Sure, it’s a little eerie but it is also so stunning!


5. Cut Down Your Own Tree162788_474587778557_5876635_n

About 25 minutes north west of my house there is a tree farm where people can go to cut down their own Christmas trees. My family has only ever done this once but it sure was a blast. My brother got to wield a hack saw and we got to pick out the most perfectly shaped tree for our living room.


6. Decorate Everything

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Literally everything. Cover your tree with ornaments, put a tinsel garland on your railings, hang stockings from your mantle, put a hat on the dog, put fake snow in the windows, hang snow flakes from the ceiling. I’m not even kidding, decorate it all then your heart can be filled with joy in every room of the house.


7. Attend a Christmas Concert

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 This past Sunday I went to Roy Thomson Hall to see the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) Annual Family Christmas Concert. It was excellent! The whole program was fun and constantly entertaining as it was geared towards children. The TSO started by playing a few familiar Christmas carols, then they accompanied a short film with the help of a narrator. The second act was more carols sung by the Cawthra Park Chamber Choir. As you can see in the picture, Santa even came for a visit at the end of the show. A professional orchestra and Christmas music and Santa?! Does it get any better than that?!


8. Dress in your Holiday Best

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Bust out that ugly Christmas sweater, bedazzle your nails to your hearts delight. Are your favourite colours red and green? Wear them together without fear of judgement. Personally, I opt for a lot of silver and gold during the holiday season.


9. Listen to some Christmas Music

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I am a bit of a music nerd so good Christmas music always gives me the feels. With artists releasing new Christmas albums every year there is so much to choose from! Sure, the songs are the same but the arrangements are different.

This season I have been playing the newly released album by Pentatonix. A-capella Christmas music? Yes please.


10. Take a picture with the Man in Red

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Our 2014 Family Christmas Card. The inside reads “Naughty or Nice”
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This is my bestfriend’s dad. A.K.A. The Best Santa ever!

No one embodies the spirit of Christmas more the jolly Ol’ St. Nick. So head to the mall & have your picture taken with father Christmas himself. A photo with Santa is guaranteed to make a great Christmas card in the future.


Well, there you have it, folks. I’m already feeling more Christmas-y just from writing that post. Did I miss your favourite method of spreading Christmas cheer? Is it singing loud for all to hear? (Elf reference, anyone?) Now it’s your turn, share in the comments!

How do you get into the holiday spirit? 

The Book of Mormon

Wow. So blogging is a lot more work than I thought. The following post has been a week in the making, not because it is the best post you will ever read, but because every time I sat down to write I got distracted by something else. I’m a busy person, what can I say.

Anyway, on to the content that took a full week to compile…

The Book of Mormon. Full Cast.
The Book of Mormon. Full Cast.

Sometimes I think it is incredibly fun and healthy to take time to be a tourist in your own city. I happen to live in a rather large Canadian metropolis so there is a lot to see and do. Personally I am super passionate about theatre and music, and it is nearly impossible to see everything that Toronto has to offer but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

Last Wednesday (November 19th) my friend Lindsay and I had a girls night out, we went to see a musical called The Book of Mormon. But before I get into my review of the show (I have so many opinions) let me tell you about our fantastic dinner! We went to this chic little restaurant called HUSH.

I apologize for the poor quality of all the photos in this post. The restaurant had major mood lighting going on, great for atmosphere but not so great for photos.

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Wine. Lindsay had a White Moscato and I had a Red Malbec.

 For dinner. Lindsay had fish & chips. The fish was massive! We probably could have shared her meal and still had leftovers. But we did not share, we greedily each got our own plate of deliciousness. I had Lobster grilled cheese. Yes you heard me correctly. Lobster Grilled CheeseIt was luxurious and incredibly unhealthy. I loved every second of it. I promise I don’t always eat badly, but when I do… I go all out.

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Lindsay’s Fish & Chips
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My Lobster Grilled Cheese & Fries.

After our meal we wandered across the street to the theatre. I love going to the theatre. There is something about the lights and the curtains that just makes everything seem so magical. Before heading inside we attempted to have a photo shoot with the show posters outside but once again the lighting was working against us. Also, taking pictures with hats, scarfs, mittens, winter coats and backpacks is not easy. #winterincanada

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Lindsay with the Book of Mormon Poster
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We ❤ Mormon
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Me with the Book of Mormon Poster

For those of you who don’t know, The Book of Mormon is a hit Broadway musical created by the same guys who created South Park. That should give you a sense of the kind of humour in this show. Vulgar, yet hilarious.

Let me summarize the plot for you real quick: Two young mormon boys men travel to Africa to spread the word of God and bring people into the Mormon faith. Hilarity ensues. Basically it is a lot of making fun of religion, playing up stereotypes and swearing. So. Much. Swearing.

The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon

I knew this going into it so I wasn’t shocked or offended but I think the woman sitting next to me was. She left at intermission and never came back. While I thought it was a funny show, I can totally see why someone would be offended by it. I think in order to appreciate this show you have to be aware that the humor is vulgar and base. They are using all means to get a laugh and if you are okay with that it can be a really fun show. I also think its important to recognize that this show isn’t just making fun of the Book of Mormon, it is also making fun of musicals and the musical theatre art form. So it had a lot of cheesy moments and standard characters and the music wasn’t anything special. But again, it is all a part of the humor and because I knew that going in I was prepared. Other hit Broadway musicals like Wicked or Billy Elliot, for example, exist to showcase music and dance respectively, so they shine in those areas. The Book of Mormon exists to be funny and as long as you aren’t easily offended that is, I think, where it shines.

Small thing take away: I really enjoyed the production and I had a really fun night being a Toronto tourist with Lindsay.

If you are near Toronto and want a good laugh The Book of Mormon is playing at the Princess of Whales Theatre until November 30th.

Have you seen the Book of Mormon? What were your thoughts?