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How I tackled Tough Mudder: Part 1

Alexandra Davies | posted Tuesday, Jul 22nd, 2014

I wouldn’t consider myself to be a superstar athlete. Though I competed eight years competitively in synchronized swimming (and no, synchro is not anything like what you saw in Austin Powers), I was a strong swimmer, but pretty much a weakling in everything else. I was able to eat all the bread/pasta/pastries I wanted without gaining any weight—in fact, I didn’t even know what refined carbs were, or that they don’t do any favours for your waistline. My practice would burn it all off anyways, so I was set. But then the worst thing that can happen to an aspiring Olympic athlete happened: I was forced out of my hopeful synchro career thanks to a wonky lunge-twist that resulted in a herniated disc. Major buzzkill.

With being pretty well immobile for a couple weeks, and forbidden from practising with my team, the carbs moved in and decided to stay. With university just around the corner, I did what I could to keep myself in decent shape (and mainly to avoid gaining 300 pounds). I got a GoodLife membership, bought all the Jillian Michaels’ fitness videos, and even took up running. I was determined as ever, and there was no way I was gaining any more weight.

But alas, I did exactly that once I hit university. First year proved to be where my fitness regime died a slow painful death. From the alcohol to the copious amounts of tater tots conveniently placed inside my residence’s cafeteria, I was on a one-way trip to Fatville with the dreaded freshman 15 (okay, 30…) to keep me company.

THE PLAN

Something had to be done. In what physically and mentally felt like a slump, I started jotting down things I knew would make me happy. This resulted in the creation of my very own bucket list. The first thing on the list was to compete in aTough Mudder race. I figured that a healthy body and Tough Mudder went hand in hand, so it would be a two-bird-one-stone type of deal. On November 12, 2013 I took the plunge and signed myself up to compete in the Toronto Tough Mudder on August 16, 2014.

Now, if you do not know what Tough Mudder is, I’ll sum it up in a few words: omg, mud, dirt, fire, pain, ice cold water. Sounds dreamy, right? You’re probably questioning my sanity at this point, but there was something about this specific race that lured me in—I needed that rush, I needed that Tough Mudder headband, and I needed to feel the accomplishment of fulfilling my dream.

Before I began training, I knew two things had to change: my eating habits and my workouts. A Tough Mudder course incorporates more than just running for countless kilometres on end. All together, the course runs for 18-20 km with various types of obstacles you and your team must conquer. And I’m not talking ‘run through these tires’ type of obstacles—I’m talking trudging through trenches caged by barbed-wire, jumping through flames, and crawling through muddy water dodging electric wires that feel as though you are getting a jump start. CLEARLY I had to up my exercise game so my body could endure all of this madness, but first I needed to clear up my diet.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Cityline.ca where I cover my training and diet plan!

So you’re moving out — now what?

Cityline | posted Thursday, Jul 10th, 2014

The weather is heating up and so is the real estate market which means moving season starts bustling from coast to coast. The great thing about moving is that you have the chance for a fresh start, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy everything new. Depending on the stage of your life you are in – and we often move because our needs and stage of life is changing – you will need to refocus your décor to reflect those changes.

Two major moves in your life are First Digs and Coupling Up. We’ve gathered a few tips and tricks to help movers of all stages get settled into their new homes, plus some essential packing tips for that first night!

First New Digs

Moving out of a family home and into your very own place brings with it many firsts – like being responsible for cleaning and cooking! While decorating a new apartment is important, so are the basics:

KITCHEN

  • When shopping for the kitchen, don’t overspend on complete dinnerware sets; one or two plates, bowls, cups and mugs will meet your everyday needs.
  • Look for pieces with colour and pattern that reflect your style, because even a tiny food prep area can be chic. You’re only one person, so if it’s a funky mug, it’s just one funky mug, etc.
  • This is also the time to buy a few versatile kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons (stash them in a cute canister) and even a small French press will meet your coffee needs without taking up the amount of counter space that a full-size coffee machine takes up.
  • You may not even have your “own” cleaning products yet. Create a cleaning kit or caddy with all of your supplies in one bucket or metal caddy.

BEDROOOM

  • A lack of storage space is no excuse for disorder! Look for items that serve double duty like a garment rack and hamper that provides a place for both clean and dirty laundry.
  • Especially if you are in a bachelor suite, the bedroom sometimes is your living room. Consider using a twin bed as a daybed, and choose bedding that will also look great with cushions on it functioning as your living room sofa. The other thing with bedding is that it’s a great way to add colour and pattern to a space, on a budget. And it’s also something you can take with you if you move to a new apartment.
  • Storage pieces, boxes, baskets are also always key for tucking away items that would otherwise have nowhere to go when space is limited.

LIVING ROOM

  • People assume that small spaces require small furniture, but that’s not always the best approach. If you have space for a regular sofa, you won’t regret it. Plus it won’t be something temporary that you will only use for a few years, you can grow with it.
  • Sometimes landlords restrict painting in a rental unit, so artwork becomes more important than ever and doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are tons of options and this will really make your new home away from home feel more personal. If you’re not allowed to hammer in nails, adhesive hooks are great in a pinch.
  • Scatter rugs or a sophisticated cowhide are a great way to cover up unsightly broadloom.

Coupling Up

KITCHEN

  • When two spaces merge into one, creating cohesion is key. Edit and purge mismatched duplicates and upgrade items like cookware and dinnerware to complete sets that will have you ready to host your first dinner party as a couple.
  • Perhaps your style is evolving and you want dishware that is a bit more grown-up. There is a lot of casual dinnerware that will feel chic and mature even though it doesn’t need to be fine china.
  • Similarly, you may not yet be in the gravy boat stage of entertaining, but could use a few great platters and or salad servers.

 BEDROOM

  • Sharing a home with your partner also means sharing precious closet space! Avoid a war over the wardrobe by switching out wooden hangers for super-thin felted ones to maximize closet capacity when combining clothing.
  • He may have had man bedding (Star Wars?) and you may have had something frilly. Now is the time to create a soothing couples retreat with gender neutral bedding that will appeal to both of you.

 LIVING ROOM

  • It’s all about balancing masculine and feminine details as you merge your belongings. He may have had a mod, navy blue sofa, but you can soften it up with more feminine accent pillows. The same theory could apply to a creamy tufted sofa and you add more masculine cushions.
  • Now that you are flat-mates, celebrate your shared life together by displaying photographs of places you’ve been as a couple. This may also be the time in your life, pre-mortgage and kids, when you have disposable income to spare for travel.

Packing a First-Night Box

  1. Bed linens for each bed that needs to be used that night
  2. Cleaning supplies
  3. Paper plates and cutlery
  4. Flashlight
  5. Paper napkins
  6. Non-perishable snacks
  7. Toiletries (including hand soap)
  8. Towels
  9. Toys for children and pets

A few other things that you would want: trash bags, tools, one change of clothes for each family member, light bulbs, and don’t forget your cellphone and charger!

 

Courtesy Tamara Robbins Griffith

@Tamara_Robbins

The must-pack items next time you travel

Winston Sih | posted Monday, Jul 7th, 2014

Canadians took 32.2 million trips last year, and we have valuable travel tips from Jeff Element, president, Travel Corporation Canada, on what industry insiders pack in their luggage!

List of must-pack items and travel tips

The business traveller:

  • Bring extra re-usable water bottles and fill them up at airport to drink on plane–staying hydrated reduces jet lag
  • Pack a garment folder–it compresses dress shirts and minimizes wrinkles while saving space
  • Wear business attire while in transit–suit no tie–receiving a business class upgrade is more likely if you look professional
  • If your suitcase goes missing, a few new shirts and undergarments are all you need to get through several days of meetings

The family vacationer:

  • Dryer sheets–layer sheets between clothing articles to maintain a fresh scent
  • Stain remover pens–they’re portable and protect clothing from permanent stains
  • When traveling with children, you never know when a scoop of gelato will fall off the cone and onto someone’s new shirt–pack washcloths–they’re essential for cleaning kids sticky faces and hands but you won’t find them in many international hotels

The worldly explorer:

  • A good camera and extra memory chip
  • Wrinkle-resistant, breathable clothing will keep you cool in the hot sun so that time can be spent exploring instead of ironing
  • Elegant evening attire–a practical, yet stylish nighttime outfit will help you feel at ease in a new destination
  • Crushable hat–substituting a felt hat for a travel-friendly version will save a great deal of room in your luggage

The adventure seeker:

  • A favourite pillow case and inflatable neck pillow come in handy during long journeys away from home
  • Waterproof phone case–from snorkeling to bungy jumping, having a waterproof phone case means you can take your device anywhere
  • Gym clothes as travel clothing–clothing with extra pockets, quick dry fabric and a slim fit are as good on a trip as they are in the gym
  • First aid–pack ginger chews, Gravol, and pain medication

With files from Jeff Element, president, Travel Corporation Canada, www.Trafalgar.com

10 places in Canada you need to visit

Cityline | posted Thursday, Jul 3rd, 2014

One of the things we’re proudest of in the days leading up to Canada Day is the sheer beauty of this country of ours. From soaring mountain peaks and imposing glaciers, to crystalline lakes and old growth forests, to fall foliage and stunning hiking trails, we’ve realized that we need to see more of our home and native land.

This was an extremely difficult list to put together, because there are countless places worthy of our time and attention. So, if we didn’t include your favourite Canadian spot, we want to know! Share your picks in the comments below.

Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia: Enter this patch of old growth forest on Vancouver Island and you might just feel as though you’ve wandered into J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Located within MacMillan Provincial Park, the magical Cathedral Grove is home to ancient and massive Douglas firs, some of which are more than 800 years old. The largest tree in the grove measures more than 9 metres in circumference. It’s a peaceful, awe-inspiring place.

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta: Surrounded by majestic mountains including Mount Fay, this glacier-fed lake is a striking shade of blue due to rock silt deposits. Part of Banff National Park, the hiking trails around the lake offer some absolutely breathtaking views. The can’t-miss one is from the top of the rockpile on Rockpile Trail – it’s one of the most photographed spots in the country and it’s easy to see why.

Nahanni National Park, Northwest Territories: There’s so much to see at Nahanni National Park: from the powerful Virginia Falls (more than twice the height of Niagara Falls), to the whitewater South Nahanni River, to the lovely vistas provided by four canyons lining the river. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. If you’re considering a trip to the Northwest Territories, you should also investigate optimal ways to view the Aurora Borealis.

The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia: Named for Italian explorer John Cabot, who landed in Atlantic Canada in 1497, the scenic highway stretches nearly 300 kilometres around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. The coastline views are spectacular. While the road trip alone is phenomenal, it’s worth making stops along the way to the vibrant communities connected by the route.

Quebec City, Quebec: Looking for a taste of Europe? You needn’t cross the Atlantic. Instead, head to Quebec City, particularly at Carnaval time (the first two weeks of February each year). One of the oldest cities in North America, Quebec City is brimming with history and culture. The Old Quebec neighbourhood, in particular, is still surrounded by ramparts, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

Ottawa, Ontario: There’s much to see in our nation’s capital, from the Parliament buildings, to the Rideau Canal, to Byward Market. Consider visiting during the Winterlude festival, which takes place in the first few weeks of February, or on Canada Day!

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland: Prepare to be wowed by the natural beauty of Gros Morne National Park – from waterfalls and sandy beaches to desert-like landscapes and Gros Morne itself (the second highest mountain peak in Newfoundland). As far as wildlife goes, don’t be surprised to see moose, caribou, black bears, foxes, and beavers.

Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick: The world’s highest tides await you at this bay located between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Go clam-digging or visit the unique Hopewell Rocks at low tide. To see it, visit Saint John, N.B., or one of the several New Brunswick or Nova Scotia towns that border the body of water.

Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut: It’s quite a distance to get to Auyuittuq National Park, located on Baffin Island in Nunavut, but the scenery is well worth it. From the impressive Mount Thor and Mount Asgard, to the beautiful Pangnirtung Fjord, you’ll find no shortage of photo subjects in this part of the country. The name, for those who are curious, is Inuktitut for “the land that does not melt.”

Haida Gwaii, B.C.: The Haida Gwaii in B.C. offer more compelling proof that we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, you’ll find sandy beaches, rainforests, and plenty of wildlife. You’ll also be immersed in the Haida culture, seeing totems, and plenty of galleries that display Haida artwork.

Photo credit: Nahanni National Park, C. Bucher/ Parks Canada (CNW Group/Parks Canada)

With files from Suzanne Ellis, Cityline.ca

Canada Day 2014: The best places to watch fireworks across the country

Cityline | posted Monday, Jun 30th, 2014

No Canada Day celebration is complete without an extravagant fireworks display! We love ending our night with a beautiful set of fireworks, so we’ve rounded up some of the top places to watch fireworks in major cities across the country – where will you be watching?

Victoria: A day filled with performances, family-friendly activities, and lots of food is capped off with a gorgeous fireworks display at Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Be sure to check out their full list of Canadian artists performing on their main stage throughout the event! The fireworks will start at 10:20 p.m.

Vancouver: With 13 hours of free family fun, Vancouver’s Canada Day celebration at Canada Place features live performances, interactive exhibits, and a stunning fireworks display at the end! The fireworks will begin at 10:30 p.m., with best viewing areas from Harbour Green Park, Stanley Park, West Vancouver and North Vancouver.

Calgary: Wherever you are, look up! At 10:45 p.m., the city of Calgary will be setting off fireworks from the Centre Street Bridge. This location will allow the show to be seen from various parts of the city, but any spot along the river will give you a great view.

Edmonton: The river valley is a stunning backdrop for the city’s gorgeous fireworks show over the North Saskatchewan River. Festive celebrations will take place throughout the day at City Hall, the Alberta Legislature, in Mill Woods, and other areas of the city.

Regina: Head to Wascana Park for a day-long celebration of Canada, capped off by fireworks after dark, typically around 10:30 p.m. Although they’re set off from Willow Island, they can be seen throughout all of the park.

Winnipeg: The Forks is home to family-friendly activities all day long on July 1st, including musicians, buskers, crafts, and more. The evening closes with a stunning fireworks display at 11pm.

Toronto: Whether you live in the north end of the city or down by the lake, there are tons of great Canada Day events in the city, and two amazing firework shows. At Mel Lastman Square in North York, the city’s official celebration includes a day filled with music and dance, capped off with a fireworks display at 10:15 p.m. Down by Lake Ontario, fireworks will light up the sky around 9:30 p.m. at Ashbridge’s Bay Park.

Ottawa: What better place to celebrate Canada Day than at the nation’s capital? The city’s biggest celebration is on Parliament Hill, with a day-long concert and a fireworks show over the Ottawa River. Just want to see the fireworks? They’ll start around 10 p.m. and you’ll get a great view at Gatineau’s Jacques-Cartier Park and the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization), as well as Major’s Hill Park in Ottawa and along the Ottawa River.

Montreal: The Old Port hosts a variety of historic and cultural events throughout the day on July 1st, with a stunning fireworks display over the St. Lawrence River to close out the celebrations, starting at 10:15 p.m.

Fredericton: Canada Day fun kicks off at noon in Officer’s Square with kid-friendly activities, live entertainment, food vendors and a huge fireworks display over the St. John River at dusk.

Halifax: Parades, music, and family-friendly activities last all day long at Dartmouth Crossings, and the fireworks show at the Halifax Harbour at 10 p.m. is not to be missed!

St. John’s: A sunrise ceremony, cake, bouncy castles and musical performances all lead up to a fireworks display over Quidi Vidi Lake at Signal Hill.

We also asked our viewers to share their favourite fireworks-watching spots! Here are some of their top picks from our Facebook page:

  • Charlene Mancor said: Harrison Hot Springs Fireworks over the lake.
  • Jackie Morley Soares said: On the Severn River at Lost Channel. Everyone goes out in their boats to watch an amazing display year after year!
  • Pauline De said: Beautiful Barrie Waterfront.
  • Wendy Pike-Lyn said: In my beautiful town of Aurora!
  • Kathy Anderson-Robitaille said: Hastings Ontario where I live. It is a small village but the firework display is amazing!!

Our Twitter followers were eager to share their picks, too! Here are some of their faves:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where will you be watching fireworks this year? Tell us about your favourite places in the comments! Happy Canada Day!

With files from Suzanne Gardner, Cityline.ca

Can’t pay your bills this month? Here’s what to do

Chatelaine | posted Thursday, Jun 26th, 2014

We Canadians owe a ton of money — a collective $1.4 trillion of it in fact. It’s money we’ve spent at the mall, the car dealership, at the local pizzeria. Trying to keep up with all the payments can be pretty tough if you’ve overspent, or if you suddenly find yourself unemployed.

Having to face bill payments when you know you don’t have the funds, can be stressful. But the worst thing you could do is shove those unpaid bills in a drawer and hope there’ll be money next month. Instead, take these steps to empower yourself and turn things around.

1. Don’t wait for the problem to go away

If you don’t have enough money to cover all your bills this month, don’t just avoid the stack of bills  and tell yourself you’ll deal with it next month. Face the situation head on and make a plan to get back on track now.

2. Lay it all out

Take all your bills and lay them out in front of you. Write down how much money you owe on each bill (is there a minimum payment you can make?) and when the payment is due.

3. Figure out which to pay first

Now that you’ve figured out what needs to be paid, consider the consequences of missed payments for each one. If you miss a phone bill payment, you’ll likely rack up a late charge; miss a rent payment and your landlord could possibly use it against you in eviction proceedings. There’s also your credit score to consider — missing more than one credit card payment can affect your score and make it harder for you to get credit down the road. While missed utility bills aren’t reported to rating agencies, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

4. Consider those interest rates

If you’re paying high interest rates on your debt, then you might want to consider moving those payments up the list. A credit card with a 19.5 percent interest rate is going to cost you big time if you miss payments. And those interest charges will make your bill harder to pay next month…and the month after that.

5. Pick up the phone

If there’s absolutely no way you can pay a particular bill on time, call up the company and explain what’s going on. A nice proactive phone call is a lot better than remaining silent. In the case of your mortgage, for example, your lender might be okay with you missing a payment, as long as they know when they can expect the next payment.

6. Do not avoid collection agencies

If you don’t pay your bills for awhile then pretty soon the company that lent you money might hire a collection agency to get the money back. If you’re getting calls from a collection agency make sure you don’t ignore them! Here’s a good article from the Globe and Mail that gives tips on how to talk to a collection agency.

7. Get better at budgeting

If you’re coming up short every month, it might be time to revisit (or make!) a budget to help you stay on top of your spending. Especially if you’ve had a change in your finances, such as a job loss or a big unexpected expense like a health crisis, then you need to adjust your budget to reflect your new reality a bit better.

8. Consider counselling

If it’s looking next to impossible to pay all your bills back, then you might want to consider credit counselling. That’s where you sit down with a credit counseling bureau to figure out how to pay your creditors back. They can lend you their expertise and help you get a grip on the problem with your creditors. Here’s some more on that topic to get you started.

With files from Caroline Cakebread, Chatelaine

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