love is everything; period

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

unnamedMy September held intense moments of laughter followed by streams of tears. I experienced beautifully tender days and evenings painted with fear. There were warm weekends in the country and star-filled nights in the city. There were cuddles with my nieces and sleepovers with my siblings. There was magic, hard work, and a million curiosities.

This September paved the way for sincere reflection and necessary prioritizing. It put everything into perspective and forced me to do things I never thought I’d have to do. To see things I never thought I’d have to see. To prepare for things I never thought I’d have to prepare for. As such, this September I learned an extensive amount:

  • There are few constants in life; you can’t even count on regular bowel 
  • Life is fragile; even when you’re careful 
  • To be brave you must first feel fear 
  • Things can change at the drop of a hat; for better or worse
  • Moments are meant to be experienced; not Instagrammed 
  • You can be both blissfully happy and terribly sad at the same time; embracing both emotions is important
  • Love is everything; period 

xoxo,

Vanessa 

The Bride’s Diary – Getting Married on A Friday

Family Time, Just for Fun

The Bride's Diary

People who get married on major holidays, Fridays, or Sundays are the freaking worst! Or at least they were until I became one of them. Here’s the thing, in order to book a Saturday night at the hall we fell in love with, w need a minimum of 200 confirmed guests. You already know that our guest list is at a firm 150 people so a Friday or Sunday would be our only options. We chose a Friday that way our guests would at least have the Saturday off to recuperate.

The only issues I have with not getting married on a Saturday is the obvious fact that not everyone we invite will be able to make it. First of all, people WORK and I would never expect anyone to take the day off. Secondly even if they decided to come to dinner (which will begin promptly at 6:30) and skip the ceremony, it might be one heck of a hassle to try to make it on time. I know that I want an intimate wedding but with such a tight guest list I am still hoping that many of them will be able to celebrate our day.

In the end,  we knew that getting married on a Friday wouldn’t be convenient for many people but for us, it works. If you’re planning your wedding and for financial/emotional/logistical reasons you decide to wed on an “unconventional” day, be prepared for a lot of eye-rolling, questions, comments, or RSVP’s with the unable to attend box checked off.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

My First Pan Am Game, Blog to Book, and MORE

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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Last Saturday I found myself melting in the stands of a stadium in Hamilton to watch the bronze metal men’s soccer game. It was my first work-outing and even though I didn’t entirely understand what was happening, I cheered when everyone else did and had a great time. The sweltering heat made me wonder why I decided to put on jeans that day but the fiancé’s mellow attitude and constant water/ice purchases got me through it. Side note: definitely nowhere hot for our honeymoon!!! We cannot take the heat!!

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I received some feedback on my blog-to-book manuscript from a wonderful publishing company in the U.K. There’s loads of work to do to polish my manuscript but their kind words and useful criticism has me roaring with excitement to get it done! There’s no guarantee that they’ll publish it, in fact it’s insanely rare for publishing companies to take on new authors who don’t have an agent. BUT that doesn’t mean that it’ll never happen and if I want it to happen I MUST keep trying. According to Alex all I need is a real break, someone to take a chance on me. The hardest part about that is not giving up. My goal is to have it finished by the first week of September and send it back to them then. Might need some extra motivational words my friends!

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

This weekend is going to be a busy one between Izzy’s second birthday, my aunt’s wedding, and an adventure with Alex on Monday, but I cannot wait!! Remind me to get some blogging, manuscript editing, and reading in too 😉

Wishing you sunshine, love, and uninhibited dance-parties this long weekend!

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Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

The Bride’s Diary – The Guest List

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

The Bride's Diary

I’ve dreaded the guest list from the moment I said yes. I never fantasized much about my wedding but I was always under the impression that I wanted a very intimate wedding (let’s say 50 or so people). The only major problem with that is not that I’m European and as such a big wedding is expected, it is that I have a huge family. My mother’s side is fifty-three people and that’s just immediate family; aunts. uncles, and cousins.

With my intimate wedding idea out the window, Alex and I had to pick a number that would work for us both financially and mentally (he wants a small wedding too). 50 people is far too little, 100 people isn’t quite enough, and 200 is more than we could imagine. 150. That would have to be the magic number.

Thankfully our parents are supportive of this and understand why we don’t feel the need to have a huge wedding. We want to be able to enjoy our wedding and to know the person behind every hand that we shake and every cheek that we kiss.

The trouble with any guest list is that there are always people who are going to be left out or offended. Alex and I had one golden rule for the guest list: do not invite anyone we don’t see at least once a year. This means that only family and the closest friends we have are going to be invited. As of right now we have 149 people on the list and we’re pretty happy about it. We refuse to budge on the number and although the names on the list might change slightly, the number will not. Who wants strangers at their wedding anyway? I don’t.

If there’s one thing I recommend when writing up your guest list, do it with your fiancé and then have your parents put in their opinion. At the end of the day it is your wedding.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Saturdays at 8 A.M.

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

Alex and I love going on drives and checking out little townships within Ontario. This weekend he had the urge to show me the cottage he went to as a child. The two-hour drive was the perfect way to start off the day. Nothing relaxes me like new scenery, a car ride, and great music.

 

With the cool breeze coming off Georgian Bay and the sun on our backs, we walked the beach and skipped rocks like children. We walked the trails and absorbed everything that is wonderful about NOT being in an office for the day.  I cannot wait for summer days in the city or long drives up at Alex’s family camper, or even exploring new townships and cities within our beautiful province.

I really wish that there were weeks made up entirely of Saturdays; the calmness in knowing that all twenty-four hours belongs to you. The wonder in what you can do with that time, the happiness in understanding that you worked hard all week and deserve some R&R.

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I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Sunday Morning Antiquing

Family Time, Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Products and Brands

Mom and I took a drive over to Inglewood Antique Market on Sunday morning. The sun beamed as we rode along back street after back street. We passed roads that lead to my high school, a pizza place on Airport Road that we frequented, and a restaurant we saw on You Gotta Eat Here that we went to as a family. Memories everywhere, a reminder of how far I’ve come since I last drove on those roads, the friends I still have and the ones that didn’t last. Highway 10 is a gorgeous sight in the Fall, trees as far as the eyes can see on either side of the road, changing from lush green to a burning red and fiery orange. It smells like change.

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We pulled up to the market and were greeted by an orange cat looking to cuddle and an elderly man with a long nose, white hair, a gentle smile, and a spring in his step. I didn’t take many photos because there was so much to look at. Mirrors, vintage luggage, typewriters, chairs, tables, old milk bottles, tea sets, purses, books, toys, beautiful dressers, jewelry, and tonnes of unique pieces for the home. The prices were amazing and the product in such incredible condition, you can tell that the owners take pride in what they bring into their market. My mom was amazed at all of the treasures we found and we plan to go back when it’s time to buy Christmas gifts.

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“Vintage books, old china, antiques; maybe I love old things so much because I feel impermanent myself.” 
— Josh Lanyon
Talk soon,
Vanessa Xo

 

Lesson Learned: Don’t Half-Ass your Life

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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It’s a little-known fact that my mother and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, and yet I’m more like her than my father. I might shrug off her bits of advice and pretend that I don’t care what she thinks, but the truth is that her acceptance and wisdom mean a lot to me. My mom has this way of always doing things perfectly, she puts 100% of effort into everything she does. Whether it’s making dinner, grocery shopping, or reading to my niece, she never looks for a short cut. My mother is always put together. She ALWAYS has a pair of earrings on, long mascaraed lashes, and combed hair, even if she’s walking out of the house in track pants. If my mother had a mantra or a set of guidelines for life, it would look something like this:

Don’t half-ass your life.
Do things the right way, not the easy way.
Clean your room, make sure your clothes match, put on some mascara.
We might not be rich, but we can be presentable. 
Don’t do it for anyone else, Do it for you. 
Take pride in your life. 

Whenever I feel like giving up or convince myself that going out in a ratty sweater and old track pants is okay, my mom’s voice pops into my head, altering my choices. If you can’t show up to your own life and give 150% every single day, nothing awesome will ever happen. I think my mom is my number one (silent) supporter. She believes in me and knows my potential more than anyone else — it may have something to do with me living in her uterus for nine months.

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When I’m feeling uninspired, self-conscious, and down about my life choices, she sends me little notes of inspiration and positivity. When I don’t believe in myself, she does. When I don’t do my very best, she pushes me to. There’s no way that a daughter of hers is going to waste her life, or half-ass her dreams. She might seem like an overbearing mother, a nag even, but she’s my nag and when her green eyes burst with passion and her hands start flailing, I know she’s about to tell me one of those secrets to life, and I listen with an open heart.

Talk soon,
Vanessa

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

Only two sisters can understand the complexities and varying shades of their relationship. There are times when you love each other, times when you hate each other, times when jealousy rears its ugly head, and times when you are so proud of your sister it overwhelms you. A sister is the only person who might be confused by what you’re doing and may not even understand why you’re doing it  BUT they still know WHO you are. A sister, if you’re lucky, is your best friend even when she is your worst enemy.

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I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister is 146 pages of truth. Amelie Sarn captures the essence of having a sister and mixes it in with the taboo subject of religion. Djelila and Sohane once shared everything, beliefs, adventures, and dreams but somewhere along the line Djelila began to walk a different path from her sister. She no longer abided by or even believed in her religion, she no longer needed her older sister to save her. Just as her sister’s beliefs melted away, Sohane’s beliefs grew stronger.

Sohane starts wearing a head scarf, her school insists that she remove it or she’ll be expelled. Meanwhile, Djelila is repeatedly harassed by neighborhood bullies for not following Muslim customs. Sohane can’t help thinking that Djelila deserves what she gets. She never could have imagined just how far things would go.

Tragedy strikes and Sohane is left to pick up the pieces of her own heart. With poetic integrity I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister had me on the edge of my seat and on the brink of tears. You don’t have to have a sister to understand or feel the truths that this book shines light on, all you have to do is have an open mind.

When mom and dad don’t understand, a sister always will. ~Author Unknown

Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo

greatness and all that jazz

Bursting the Bubble, Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

piclabThursday was a perfect day for walking around the streets of Toronto with one of my favourite girlies in all the land. I invited my brother’s girlfriend, Christine, to accompany me to the Chapters Indigo media preview. Although she’s been dating my brother for years we’ve never spent much time together, so when I went to pick her up I was a little nervous. I’m always scared that I’ll be awkward or run out of things to say to people but I was happily surprised when we literally could not stop talking!

I think one reason we get along so well is because we are a lot alike. We crave adventure, we’re ambitious, we’re quiet and yet can’t stop talking when we’re with people we like spending time with. We keep things to ourselves but are learning to speak our minds. We love our families, boyfriends, friends, and even books. We’re tired of saying yes to people who don’t appreciate us and have made a pact to not do things that make us unhappy just to make someone else happy.

As our chatting continued, my nervous energy melted away and we were both able to enjoy an evening in the city. We walked to Chapters Indigo head office and then over to The Store On Queen so I could pick up a pair of pants I ordered (I was super bummed that I didn’t get to meet Hubby and Wifey), and finally headed to the O&B Canteen for a bite to eat (dinner was delicious by the way).

IMG_7516IMG_7517IMG_7520 IMG_7553I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again — I LOVE BEING DOWNTOWN. The hustle and bustle makes me feel alive. The murmur of various conversations, the sardine-packed sidewalks, the endless rows of great shops and fabulous restaurants is so different from anything I experience on a day-to-day basis. King Street West is my favourite part of the city — it’s familiar and foreign. I can navigate that block pretty well and still see something new every time I walk it. I feel like I belong in the city, I should be walking home from work, grabbing an early drink or a late latte with my boyfriend, friends, or solo. 

What is about the city that makes me feel great? Is it just Toronto or all cities that make me feel like I can do anything, be anyone, and achieve my biggest dreams? An important part of this feeling is surrounding myself with people who feel the same way, or who at very least believe that I am capable of all those things. People who think I am great and that I can achieve greatness. Thank you to all of those people.

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 Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo

the weight of Insecurities

Bursting the Bubble, Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

Perhaps you saw my sulky tweet about going for a physical. The one where I gained 6 pounds since the last time I visited the doctor two years ago. I don’t usually tweet things like that, I highly doubt you care how much I weigh or how much I’ve gained, but I do. In 10th grade I got fed up with being the only girl who wasn’t naturally thin, so I made it my goal to become skinny. I wanted to be pretty, thin, and get noticed by the hot guys in my grade. I wanted desperately to have a boyfriend. I went on a strict NO JUNK FOOD diet and worked out with Billy Blanks tapes every day. Eventually I lost the weight but it didn’t get me a boyfriend, nor did it rid of my insecurities.

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Feeling beautiful is all that matters. Thin, thick, whatever. Beauty is on the inside. Oh and CHOCOLATE TASTES AS GOOD AS ANYTHING FEELS!

The thing is that I will never be thin — maybe subtly toned and thick but never thin. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that or be okay with it. Even nine years later, I don’t feel confident most days. I try on clothes and even though I’m “tiny”, it doesn’t make me enjoy shopping any more than someone who isn’t. In fact, trying on clothes isn’t the only thing that irks me, I hate seeing myself naked. I despise bathing suits and refuse to look at myself before heading into the shower. In the mirror all I see are the same imperfections I’d notice when I was sixteen years old. I see extra skin or flab that wasn’t there before, I see cellulite from my bum to my upper back thighs and I grimace. How can a 25-year-old woman not love her body? Not love the skin that’s treated her well her entire life? It baffles me and sickens me that hearing that I am now 129lbs instead of 123lbs is something that could ruin my day but it does.

So what now? Is this vanity or a simple case of I don’t look like the women I see in magazines or movies? Or is it something even worse than that? Have I made being “thin” “skinny” or “tiny” my main characteristic? Am I vain enough to think that that’s how people remember me or am I silly enough to hope that that’s how they remember me? The more important question is why, why would I want that to be the way people remember me? Wouldn’t I rather have people say “Vanessa? You mean the writer from My Pen, My Voice?” or “Vanessa? That sweet girl with a weird but fun sense of humour?”  or “Oh Vanessa? Ya I remember her! She’s awesome.”  There are all kinds of beautiful out there and they don’t start with a number on the scale.

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This is me. Today. I’m a writer, traveller, and reader. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, granddaughter, niece, girlfriend, cousin, and friend. I have brown eyes, big thighs, and a small waist. I have big feet and love having my toenails painted. I like my lips, they’re exactly like my moms. I love to laugh, especially if it’s over a Lavazza latte. I like working out and I am healthy but I love my mom’s muffins and cookies too much to give them up. I love Italian food and penne alla vodka is my favourite dish. I weigh 129lbs and I am beautiful, not in spite of or because of that number. It’s just one little piece of who I am and if I can have so many people love me for all of these things, then I can learn to love myself too. It’s a journey, a process, and I’m on the right track.

Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo