A Book Review(ish) & January Blues

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

“If you live through defeat, you’re not defeated. If you are beaten but acquire wisdom, you have won. Lose yourself to improve yourself. Only when we shed all self-definition do we find who we really are.” The Tao of Wu

January always starts off a little slowly for me. I let the previous year linger in the air instead of focusing on the year ahead. I give myself a much-needed break from the blog, reading, and even writing stories. And then suddenly it hits me, I want to do everything all at once. I start tweeting again, my fingers itch to write the perfect sentence, my brain longs to learn something new, and I’ve morphed into that version of myself that I like best: the passionate go-getter ready to take a chance. The woman who is willing to lose all other versions of herself, especially the ones that do anything but empower her.

From Amazon.uk

From Amazon.uk

Usually a conversation with my best friend or my parents is all I need to get out of my funky version of January Blues but this time it was actually a book that kicked my butt into gear. A Man Called Ove is the loveliest book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It’s about an old man called Ove who is stuck in his ways and just wants to die. He misses his wife desperately and wants nothing more than to take his own life to be with her, the trouble is that the entire world is so incompetent that they won’t let it happen. Neighbours and stray cats meander their way into Ove’s life and he begins to feel responsible for them. How can he go off to be with his wife when men can’t reverse trailers or bleed radiators, when women don’t know how to drive, or when teenagers can’t fix their own bikes? Ove doesn’t stand for this, he believes that people should be able to do the most basic things in life, no gadgets or technology should be doing it for them. Ove’s view on how the world should be is contagious and quite hilarious if I may say so, but the most endearing part of the entire novel is how he and his useless neighbours depend on one another. This novel is about relationships, about love, and about doing the right thing no matter what. Ove’s love, determination, and selflessness inspired me, as did all of the chapters about his late wife Sonja.

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.” 
― Fredrik BackmanA Man Called Ove

In A Man Called Ove, and my own life, time is of the essence. And even though I’m not quite sure where 2015 will lead me, I vow to rock the crap out of it, to say yes, and to simply live.

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

Sometimes, you walk right into Life

Lifestyle/Personal

The wheels in my head wouldn’t stop turning this weekend. My thoughts sprung back and forth from an interview I went on, to the book that I want to write, to an event I’ll be attending tonight, to traveling, to needing new phone, to saving money, to looking for more freelance work, to comparing my life to others and back again. I’ve always spent a lot of time in my own mind, churning over various conversations, moments, and decisions until they stop making sense. Like repeating a word over and over again until it looses all meaning. I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to excel, to make people proud, to ensure that I am living up to my potential, and every day that I am not doing one of those things tends to be a rough one for me.

Below is a photo of a door that leads to my parents’ bedroom. My mom is repainting and decided to let the smoke detector hang in such a way that it is exactly in line with my forehead. I’ve been so wrapped up in my own thoughts that no matter how many times I walked down the hallway this weekend, I walked right into the smoke detector. Sometimes I’d snap out of it and nearly duck out-of-the-way before I smacked right into it. Afterwards I’d turn around and watch it sway back and forth, taunting me, laughing at me. Telling me that it’s time to wake up and pay attention. Telling me that Life is happening all around me and if I don’t look where I’m going or live in the moment, it’ll find a way to smack me back to reality. Telling me to stop thinking about things and start doing them. Not just doing them, but doing them well, doing them right, doing them with passion.

Sometimes you sleep walk right into Life, and I have the bump to prove it.

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“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag

Vanessa Xo

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

 

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

Women in Clothes [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Reviews, Fashion & Beauty

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Women in Clothes is a collection of surveys about garments of clothing and how they shape our lives. It’s an intriguing 500+ page conversation that you’d have with your girlfriends, reflecting on all aspects of clothing, garments, and beauty. I loved the photos of real women’s clothing collections from the false eyelashes and dress sets, to grey sweaters and raincoats– proving that all women have a type of garment they covet more than anything. I enjoyed reading the various features and found that I had something in common with the way that each woman dresses.

I know the kind of dresser I want to be — a sophisticated, classy, vintage goddess with so much sass it turns heads. When I picture myself working and living in Toronto, that’s what I see. In reality I live so far north of the city it’s a mission to get down there, and the closest I’ve come to vintage is wearing the clothes my best friend gives away. She’s got great taste but our bodies are so different that her clothes never look right on me, I feel strange when I wear them, like I’m pretending to be someone else. Funds, patience, and the mindset that I don’t have to look great if I’m just running errands has dictated my style for years, but I am willing to change. I’m willing to take a good hard look at who I am and let my clothing express that. Even the best dressed women put on their pants one leg at a time.

There is no exact science to the way I dress but I do have a few rules for myself:

  • NEVER wear a tight top with wearing leggings or tights, make sure the top is loose and covers your crotch
  • if your pants are baggy wear a tighter shirt and vice versa
  • tuck in your shirts when wearing high-waisted pants
  • heels and a blazer make every outfit better
  • jewelry is your friend — your mom has a boatload for you to borrow

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Women in Clothes has so many layers of information, stories, and photos. I found the project called Ring Cycle truly interesting — fifteen women who work in a newspaper office photocopy their hands and talk about their rings. I enjoyed learning where and how these women came to own their rings — it made me look at the only ring I wear a little differently. My boyfriend bought it for me for Valentine’s day about four years ago, it’s technically a promise ring with a blue diamond (representing honesty, fidelity, and love) hidden on the inside of the band. He doesn’t call it a promise ring though, it’s a just because I love you so much ring. I wear it on the middle finger of my left hand because I felt it would be bad luck to wear it on my wedding finger. It’s white gold, simple and beautiful. I never take it off (except to shower and sleep) and I’ll never forget his bashful face or nervously sweaty temples when he handed it to me.

Another one of their projects entitled Mothers As Others was incredibly moving and wonderful to read. The premise was for women to send in a photo of their mother before she had children and write what they saw. While reading, I couldn’t help but wonder what their mothers’ reactions would be to what their daughters thought about them. Do they know how beautiful their daughters think they are? How much they inspired their lives, as well as fashion? I found a few photos of my mom before she had kids, these might have even been taken before she met my dad. She’s probably only eighteen or nineteen but she looks mature for her age. She looks confident and happy in her own skin, she appears strong and fierce, like she knows exactly where she’s supposed to be. She’s beautiful and her smile is endless. She’s got amazing hair (look at those bangs) and knows how to dress for her figure. I love the high-waist skirts and pants, the belts, and the collared shirts she wears. My mom still has a great sense for fashion (she helps me pick outfits all the time), a timeless style, and sometimes I see glimpses of the confidence she embodied all those years ago.

The best part about Women in Clothes is not the great writing or even the interesting surveys, it’s being able to place each survey or project into the confines of your own life. I learned so much about myself, my style, and the person I want to share with the world by reading this book. Although this book has a lot to do with clothes, how we wear them, and how we feel in them, mostly it shows the reader that they are not alone. There are so many women out there that think like you, that have the same insecurities and questions about clothing as you, just open the book to page one and you’ll find that out.

 “Taste is a wink, not a thud.”

Talk soon,
Vanessa
* Quote from page 22 of Women in Clothes
*Thanks to Penguin Random House for this book
*Thoughts are my own

 

stop dickering around.

Lifestyle/Personal

I LOVE spending Sundays in Toronto, well in all honesty I love ANYTIME in Toronto. With every corner you turn you can see something new. It’s my kind of bliss — tiny adventures a block at a time. Yesterday afternoon I went to Gusto 101 with the bf and cousins. We sat on the patio and were pummelled with sunshine — it felt great. I had the burger and a glass of their white wine that’s on tap ($1 an ounce!) my mouth is still salivating. Whenever I’m in the city I tend to think big thoughts, dream big dreams. Everything about Toronto is so much BIGGER and FASTER than anything in Bolton.

This is how it is, you’re stagnant for so long and then all of a sudden everything happens at once. All of a sudden your dreams shift and mould into something completely different. All of a sudden life is catching up to you and you can’t seem to understand how quickly you turned twenty-five. You feel like you were nineteen last week instead of six years ago. All of a sudden every single choice you make has an immediate result and impact on your life. All of a sudden you’ve got to stop dickering around and grow the eff up.

IMG_7942I’m not the type to dick around. I want different things than I wanted last year and I’ve got to work hard in order to get them. Patience is a virtue but persistence is a necessity. Changes are immediate, with no end in sight. I don’t want to press pause, rewind, or even fast forward because I’m enjoying the uncertainty of my life right now. My story is just getting interesting…

ENJOY LIFE AND KICK ASS, 
VANESSA XX

 

Trind Nail Care [Product Review]

Fashion & Beauty, Products and Brands

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I have a bit of an obsession with nail polishes. I love getting manicures but am perfectly capable of doing my  nails on my own too. I have pretty good nails they’re strong and they grow like weeds but since I’ve done shellac a few time I find that my nails haven’t been the same. They chip, they peel, and they look godawful most of the time. I’ve been yearning to test out Trind Nail Care since my editor at Chic Darling told me how awesome they are.

Trind Cosmetics is a Dutch company which devleps unique products in the field of nail and hand care. Trind products are distingushed from other hand and nail care products are they are based on the natural consistency of the nail, cuticle and hands.Trind products make the nail strong and beautiful without disturbing the structure of the nail. The basis of Trind is highly effective and active products that are uniquely formulated, consisting of nourishing ingreidents of Keratin and numerous vitamins.

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I received a press release a few weeks back from Charming Media, letting me know that Trind Polishes are now available on The Shopping Channel so I requested a sample and thankfully they obliged. They sent me Step 2 (Cuticle Balsam), Step 3 (Nail Magic Buffer), and Step 4 (Nail Balsam) of their 6 Step System. You’re supposed to use the Cuticle Balsam and Nail Balsam daily for two weeks and then after two weeks only once a week for maintenance. The great thing about these balsams is that you can put a colour on right after them too! Out of sheer laziness and nail neglect I’ve only been using this system once a week BUT I can already see a huge difference in my nails. They aren’t peeling as much, they’re harder, and my cuticles aren’t as dry, I can only imagine what they will look like once I use them properly!

Trind also has a huge collection of what they call Caring Colors Nail Polish that were specially developed to maintain the health and vitality of your nails after getting them in top shape from using our nail care products. Their colours are beautiful and vibrant. I especially love the Pastel Purple, Dark Tan, Ocean Pearl, and Light Salmon. I hope to invest in some of these beautiful polishes soon!

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What do you think about Trind Polishes and their 6 Step System? Would you give them a try?

ENJOY LIFE, KICK ASS, & KEEP YOUR NAILS LOOKING PRETTY! 
VANESSA XX

* All italicized statements are direct quotes from the Trind Nail Care Website and/or PDF Manual

* I was given Steps 2-4 of the system by Charming Media in exchange for an honest product review

The Closet Purge of 2014

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

I feel different lately, like everything inside of my head has jumbled together, broken a part, and ended up in a different place. My heart feels the same and yet just as different as the thoughts in my head. I still love who I love but some kinds of love have come to an end. I’m still me but with a different style and interests and likes. For example, my bedroom is no longer ME. I walk into it and stare at the deep purple walls realizing that they belong to a quiet, angry, and confused young girl. I sit at my desk and the sad purple walls stare right back, asking me Who are you? These walls don’t belong to the confident and happy dreamer I’ve become and so they must go.

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A few other things have to go too. After years of nagging from my mother and a little inspiration from my best friend, I completely purged my closet on Sunday. Sometimes you grow out of clothes physically, sometimes emotionally. I looked at the clothes hanging in my closet and the a lime green chiffon shirt, two pairs of shorts that don’t fit, a dress that I wore to my nineteenth birthday, etc. no longer appeal to me. I am not the same person who wore those items so I got rid of them. I kept anything that I wear often and will only add items to my closet that represent me.

photo 2It seems like the more I get rid of the more I’m able to see who I really am. The more I change, the more I can discover what really matters to me. It’s the most refreshing feeling in the entire world. My last day at the pizza place is Friday and I think that’s the spark for all of these little changes. I outgrew that job, I outgrew my clothes, and I’ve certainly outgrown some of my thoughts. I’m welcoming the new with open arms and a waving flag that reads COME GET ME! I’M READY!

Love Always (if not forever)

Vanessa

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