The Saint Tavern and Tattoo Parlours

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

Weekends are my absolute favourite; I get to catch up on my reading and blogging, spend time with my family, and have an adventure or two with my love. On Saturday Alex and I headed down to The Saint Tavern for breakfast.

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I loved the dark and cool vibe of the restaurant, the deliciously creamy and strong latte, and the delectable Duck Egg St. Benny. The service was fantastic, it felt like being at home, with a bunch of other brunching strangers enjoying their meals.

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After breakfast we walked around the city and ended up at a tattoo parlour near my house. I finally got the “writerly” tattoo I’ve been wanting. It’s a semicolon on my right wrist, which was inspired by this photo on Pinterest. I’m hoping that it will remind me to use my spare time wisely. To use every moment that I’m not at working, writing things down, creating characters, and stringing stories together.

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

That Time I Met David Nicholls [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Toronto Adventures

Once in a while HarperCollins Canada hosts an intimate gathering with their Facebook fans, one of their authors, and a spectacular interviewee. This event celebrated David Nicholls, author of One Day and Us (which just came out). From what the Facebook invite said, guests would get to listen in on an interview between the epic Laurie Grassi and David Nicholls, then get their book signed. My love for Us demanded that I attend.

On Sunday afternoon I headed down to the HarperCollins offices and was greeted with smiling faces, hot coffee, and yummy snacks. The interview got underway rather quickly, David Nicholls lit up the room with his warm English accent and humble disposition. With cues from Laurie Grassi, he spoke about wanting to write a novel about what happens next, what happens after the dating and the courting. Us is what happens after the I do’s.

He spoke about the theme of changing over time, about journeys and the way they effect you. He discussed the characters in the novel having reasons behind their actions — this is what the other readers and I found so loveable about them. Douglas, however maddening, always acts with reason. In response to Douglas’ annoying traits, Laurie Grassi brought up one of my favourite lines in the book: The fact was I loved my wife to a degree that I found impossible to express, and so rarely did (page 27 of the ARC). David Nicholls purposely chose Douglas’ point of view to tell the story because he has trouble expressing himself. That is what makes him so vulnerable and sometimes rather stupid.

Although I loved hearing about the inspiration behind the book, what I enjoyed most was the discussion on various writing tools. He spoke about how important structure was to writing Us, the short chapters and interweaving Connie and Douglas’ meeting with their trip around Europe 25 years into their marriage, had a purpose. The structure not only made it easier to write the book, but also made the reader want to just read one more chapter, one more chapter.

When asked about what makes him want to keep writing, he shifted in his chair, fixed his glasses and said, “I just really love it. When I was acting, what I really loved about it were the words on the page. It’s a great privilege to do it for a living. I just love it, plus I have a contract with my publisher…”

There’s something quite fascinating about listening to the author of a novel that you love discuss their own work. What struck me about David was how funny he is and how quirky his comments could be. He’s clearly very passionate about his work, and answered all questions with vigor and excitement. He was honestly humbled by the amount of people who turned up for the event and took his time signing books and chatting with each fan. While he signed my copy I asked him if he had any advice for an aspiring novelist. He paused for a moment, thought deeply, and replied:

If you’re going to write, you have to read, that’s where ideas come from. Then you need to show people your work, believe in yourself enough to show your family and friends. Oh and stay away from the Internet, it’s quite distracting.

Thank you HarperCollins for hosting such a lovely event, I’ve never met an author in such an intimate and charming setting. Count me in for the next one!

– Vanessa

 

Lena Dunham in Conversation [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble, Toronto Adventures


IMG_0742Yesterday was the perfect Fall day, 16 degrees with beaming sunshine and a cool breeze. It was also a perfect day in general because it was finally the day of a book event I booked tickets for over a month ago. This wasn’t just any book event — LENA DUNHAM IN CONVERSATION at the Appel Salon.

I headed to the city with the same ferocious anxiety and excitement I always get when heading to events, but this time it doubled (I haven’t felt like this since I met Jowita Bydlowska). I was actually going to meet Lena Dunham. I would be able to tell her how much her book meant to me, how my writing has changed since reading it, and how much I admire her… if I could get the words out of course.

After hours of waiting (okay it was only two and my mom and I got a glass of wine so it wasn’t so bad), Lena finally arrived. With newly dyed green hair, a gray bedazzled blazer, sparkly flats, and an infectious smile, Lena took the stage and read a chapter from Not That Kind of Girl. There’s nothing more exciting than hearing words that you love spoken by the author of the book. When she finished reading, she sat down for a chat with Johanna Schneller.

IMG_0752Lena is extremely smart, confident, and funny. With poise and conviction she talked about anxiety as a mental disorder, Girls, love, her relationship with the late Nora Ephron, body image, and her reason for writing. She said that she uses writing to connect with people and feel normal, to get to know herself. When it came to discussing personal essays written by women she said that in our culture there’s something threatening about women telling their stories without remorse, and she hopes to help change that. When asked about why she leaves her writing and her book so open-ended she was humble enough to admit that she’s still growing and changing, all she wants to do was share the little bit of knowledge that she has right now.

When sitting in a room of over 500 people it’s hard to imagine that you’ll connect with a person on a stage sitting eight feet away from you. But I did. Lena spoke to all of us like we were her girlfriends, like we were sitting down in our pyjamas, eating pizza and chips, talking about the most important issues facing our culture, and not being ashamed for any of it. I felt connected to the women and men around me, some of which were probably writers too. Lena opened our minds and our hearts, leaving us in awe and in stitches.

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When the time came to get my book signed by Lena, I was shaking. Everything I practiced saying to her flew out of my head and probably landed into someone else’s. It turns out that I yapped and hand-talked for almost a minute, but Lena was sweet and compassionate. She’s either a really great actress or she was genuinely touched by how much her book meant to me (I truly believe it was the latter).

Although I “learned” a lot from Lena last night, one thing that my mind keeps repeating is:

“It’s not nice to talk shit about yourself all of the time.”

 

Vanessa Xo

Taste Canada: The Food Writing Awards [Event Recap]

Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

On Monday I attended Taste Canada’s Food Writing Awards Gala. Since I’ve never been to these awards before, my nerves ran high the entire subway ride. I got downtown faster than I anticipated so I took my time walking to the venue. Even though it was spitting and the other pedestrians were running passed me, I couldn’t help stopping for a moment to take in the sights. Toronto is beautiful even with mist, fog, and rain clouding my view. When I walked into the venue my nerves finally made way for excitement. Arcadian Court is a gorgeous space with high ceilings, crisp white walls, and breathtaking chandeliers. I grabbed myself a beer (Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA) and sat down to take everything in.

Taste Canada — The Food Writing Awards is a not-for-profit organization. Founded in 1998, it recognizes and celebrates superior writing and publishing throughout Canada’s culinary world, both English and French.

The Gala was hosted by celebrated Chef, Ricardo Larrivée. He was witty, sentimental, and an absolute treat to listen to. It’s clear that he believes in the power of making memories in the kitchen, something I’m sure all food writers can agree with. Although I enjoyed learning about new cookbooks, listening to the winners’ speeches, and watching the tribute to The Cookbook Store, the best part was the reception afterwards. It featured an open bar and several food stations to test out and enjoy. The food was prepared by culinary students from various schools who were partnered with a mentor chef.

With a glass of Samuel Adams in hand (this time OctoberFest), I tried out all of the stations I could. My taste buds relished in the house cured duck prosciutto, tagliatelle topped with willowgrove hill pork and fennel sausage ragu, maple and espelette smoked Ontario pork shoulder, and finally chocolate raspberry buttercream squares. Beer isn’t usually my go-to beverage, but I’ll definitely be reaching for one more often. Samuel Adams OctoberFest has a deep flavour that goes down smoothly. Whether salty, savoury, or sweet, it paired nicely with every dish I tried. The beer enhanced the flavour of the food rather than changing it or distracting from it. There’s even a hint of caramel in the beer that added a balance to my palate and kept me satisfied between stations.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

I spent my Monday night surrounded by people who love food, books, and beer – what more does a girl need? Congratulations to all of the winners and thank you for sharing your food with me. Check out the list of winners below!

Vanessa Xo

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan. Courtesy of Samuel Adams.

Disclosure: I was compensated for attending this event but only wrote about it due to the amazing time I had, the wonderful food I ate, and the tasty beer I drank. Also, I love anything books so this event was a MUST-attend for me!

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Winners

Culinary Narratives/Narrations Culinaires 

The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis

Les saveurs gastronomiques de la bière by David Lévesque Gendron et Martin Thibault

General Cookbooks/ Livres de Cuisine Générale

The Flavour Principle: Enticing Your Senses with Food and Drink by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol

Dans la cuisine de Danny St-Pierre by Danny St Pierre

Regional/Cultural Cookbooks

Toronto Star Cookbook: More Than 150 Diverse and Delicious Recipes Celebrating Ontario by Jennifer Bain

Single-Subject Cookbooks/Livres de Cuisine Sujet Unique

Gastro Grilling: Fired-up Recipes to Grill Great Everyday Meals by Ted Reader

Les Règles d’or des épices, recettes et récits de Ethné et Philippe de Vienne, chasseurs d’épices by Ethné et Philippe De Vienne

Shopping Spree with Dainty Girl

Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Toronto Adventures

Last week I won a shopping spree with Nicole Wilson from Dainty Girl at M for Mendocino. I entered the contest on a whim, thinking that if I won I could purchase a few new pieces for future job interviews, family events, or date nights. Considering how much I loath shopping, it was a pleasant experience. What made it easier were the suggestions from Nicole, the wonderful PR ladies who made the contest possible, and the reasonably priced clothes I got to look at and try on.

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I got to shop on my own, pulling pieces from every which way, and stacking them in my change room. I tried on a few pairs of distressed denim, they were beautiful and stretchy, so much nicer than any pair of jeans I’ve ever owned. I did pull something in my back trying to put them on though — jeans aren’t my friend. I tried on a few skirts, some gorgeous jackets, sweaters, and crop tops. Having Nicole’s opinion, as well as, the other ladies there helped me make a final decision. They know so much about clothes, what works and what doesn’t, and helped me find a few pieces that I would’ve been self-conscious about purchasing if I had been on my own.

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I settled on a beautiful red skirt, two sweaters, and the pièce de résistance, a beautiful black coat. I tried it on with a pair of their ripped denim, threw my hair up and stood in front of the mirror beaming. You know when you try on that ONE thing that you know you must have. That one piece of clothing that makes you feel beautiful, sexy, and confident? This coat did exactly that for me and thankfully it’s Dainty Girl-approved.

FullSizeRenderThank you Nicole and M for Mendocino for hosting such an amazing contest and for helping me pick out some beautiful pieces to add to my wardrobe. Thanks for a wonderful night in the city and for boosting my confidence level a little bit — I’m looking forward to strutting out the door in my new coat!

Vanessa xo

 

American Heist [MOVIE REVIEW #TIFF14]

film, Toronto Adventures

Friends of mine get a block of tickets for TIFF every year and are just awesome enough to take the bf and I to a screening or two. On Saturday we attended a screening American Heist at the Scotiabank Theatre. I don’t usually write film reviews, but I feel inclined to rate this film. I always thought that films at TIFF have to be amazing; with the best of the best stories, plots, writing, and acting. Apparently I was wrong.

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American Heist is the combination of every gangster/bank-robbing film you have ever seen. Every cliche can be found in this film, along with a terrible script and sub-par acting. The film begins with Frankie (Adrien Brody) getting out of jail after completing a 10-year-stint. He dances his way out of the prison wearing a leather jacket that covers up his tattoo of Frank Sinatra, and a yellow-gold chain around his neck. His moves are as awkward as the two thugs waiting to pick him up (one being Akon). After a night celebrating his freedom in a strip club filled with cocaine, he’s brought to a warehouse and is slapped around by another thug (Tory Kittles).

Earlier on we meet Frankie’s brother Jimmy/James (Hayden hottie Christensen), a mechanic trying to get loans from the bank to open up his own shop and turn his life around. Jimmy got into trouble because of Frankie, went to jail for a bit, and completely cut ties with his brother. Frankie and the thugs he works for need Jimmy to help them rob a bank, since he can make bombs and drive like no one else. Basically it’s these thugs against the banks, trying to take back America or whatever. Some twist of fate (a broken car) brings Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend into the mix, who just happens to be a police dispatcher. Emily is played by Jordana Brewster, and even though she is a decent actress, the cheesiness of her lines takes away all of the character’s credibility. 

The story is a good idea but not executed well. The poor acting and cheesy lines screw up any chance of the movie making sense or holding onto the viewer’s attention. The word “bro” is significantly over-used and highly distracting. On top of that Frankie and Jimmy have the same conversation at least three times, there are tonnes of unanswered questions, and I think there must’ve been some budget issues or editing issues because there are a fews scenes that don’t make sense.

What’s my rating?

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What was the best film you saw at TIFF?

Talk soon,
Vanessa

 

Meet Philippa Gregory in Toronto [BOOK EVENT]

Book Reviews, Toronto Adventures

It’s no secret that I have a love for historical fiction novels, in fact, if you take a look at my bookshelf that’s the biggest genre you’ll see. My awesome friends at Simon & Schuster know about my love for the genre so they told me about wicked event that’s happening this month. Philippa Gregory, British historical novelist best known for The Other Boleyn Girl,  will be in Toronto to promote her latest book The King’s Curse. The tickets are only $5 and the author will be chatting and signing books too — don’t worry if you don’t have a copy, Indigo is selling them at the event.

I’ll be receiving my copy of the book (THANKS S&S) soon so that I can read and review it. You can find all of the event information below. To purchase tickets click here, and to RSVP to the event check out the Facebook page.

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Want to read an excerpt? I’ve got you covered, click HERE!

Talk Soon,
Vanessa

Credo quia impossibile… [NEW MANTRA]

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Toronto Adventures

Credo quia impossibile…

I believe it because it is impossible…

I found that Latin phrase on the signed copy of Cloud by Eric McCormack that I won from The Cooke Agency via Twitter. Can a phrase like that be a mantra because if so, it’s mine now. Over the last few years (like many other university graduates) I’ve struggled to start my career. My dreams include working for a publishing company or other bookish establishment and living in the heart of Toronto (with the bf), while writing freelance articles and keeping up with my blog. Right now I’m unemployed,  living with my parents at least 50 minutes from the city, and yes still blogging and freelancing. My dreams seem anything but possible from where I’m sitting, and yet I can’t stop believing that one day it will happen. I don’t think that my dreams are too big, or impossible, or crazy, I just need to keep trying and hope for a bit of luck to come my way…

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One day I’ll be able to miss this view…

ENJOY LIFE AND KICK ASS, 
VANESSA XX

* Photo taken with the Nokia Lumia 1020!

Joyful Traditions [Chapters Indigo Media Preview]

Book Reviews, Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

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It was Christmas in July as me and my date walked into the Chapters Indigo head office last night. The white room was decked out in beautifully decorated Christmas trees, a giant sleigh, books galore, and some delicious holiday treats. According to one of the Chapters associates, the inspiration behind this holiday’s preview was Joyful Traditions. The room was split up between cozy Christmas cabin theme (fur, red, black, grey, camel, ivory, and charcoal colours) and Christmas in the city (icy winter pastels, white, gold, silver, and bronze).

I loved the cozy cottage look and was ready to take a nap in the sleigh filled with pillows. They’ve got some fantastic throw pillows coming up this Holiday, I’m thinking of purchasing one for my cousin and best friend. I paused a little longer than deemed normal at their fabulous desk section filled with beautiful journals, witty mugs, and chic pens. I also loved all of their travel items — beautiful passport holders, a cute case with tweezers and manicure essentials, a jewellery roll, and even sleeping masks.

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Along with all of these goodies there were tonnes of books to take a look at. There are so many great books being published this holiday season. I am most looking forward to Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham but I also can’t wait to grab a copy of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. I received an ARC of A Sudden Light by Garth Stein yesterday which was one of the books on their shelf too.

What I love about Chapters, apart from the books of course, is the range of products that they carry and the simplistic elegance of everything they sell. They have everything from mugs to great vegan totes, DIY drink kits, scarves, wallets, gourmet sweets, and even some pretty sweet tech gadgets! You can find everything you need and want in one place.

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Thank you to Indigo for inviting me to such a great event! I’ve never been to one of your media previews and I am happy to say that you’ve got me itching to do some major shopping when these products launch!

Love Always and Forever,

Vanessa Xo

but i’ve got a dream worth protectin’

Bursting the Bubble, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Toronto Adventures

62847759b0c2ef40b245e69d63a2635fI don’t know if the YES PROJECT made me do it or if it was my need for change, for a new chapter but I made a decision to start fresh. To let go of the places and circumstances that are holding me back and just be free. I’ve been bowling with bumper guards for too long (metaphorically speaking) and it’s about time to put them down. I know I talk about it a lot about doing this but now I have no choice. It’s a new chapter whether I’m terrified or not. It all ends August 1st, one final goodbye and I’m off to something new. I don’t know where I’m headed but it starts with a pen and a dream, and it’s worth protecting.

Talk soon,

Vanessa