Blue October

Family Time

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More often than not, she writes in the third person; it makes her feel anonymous yet powerful. When the word I  becomes she, honesty grows wings. 

She thought that seeing her sister drenched in her own blood and her future husband in a hospital bed crying in pain would be enough turmoil for one month. Unfortunately everything comes in threes.

As she walked into yet another hospital room she held her breath. Her eyes focussed on her father, who lay asleep in a blue gown. The tube in his mouth sat quietly, steadily, allowing him to breathe. He looked like a different version of her father, his toes weren’t twitching and he was far too still. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed the rest of her family wading tears. This would be the trillionth time she cried this month. Instead of allowing them to take over she pressed them back into her head. She could be strong.

Over the next few days she’d come to understand that the saddest sound she’d ever hear would be her mother crying. She’d realize that it would take a long time for her own heart to stop hurting.

She went through the motions and did her best to help out wherever she was needed. She did her best to keep it together. She went to work, she focussed, she repeated.

Yes, she crumbled.

Yes, she felt agitated, angry, and guilty (for what she didn’t know).

Yes, she cried streams that turned into rivers that bled into oceans.

But she was humbled and aware of the fragility of life. Spending the better part of a month in and out of hospitals will do that.

The best way out is always through.

She went through it all but with luck and silver linings around every corner. Her  father’s quintuple bypass saved his life. Because of her fiancé’s liver donation, his mother would live. And her sister, who hemrroaged for hours, at this very moment, is chasing around her toddler with an infant in her arms.

xoxo,

Vanessa

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 

Welcome to the World, Baby Mia

Family Time

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When my niece Isabelle was born, my heart filled with so much love I thought it was going to explode. Every time I saw my niece I’d fall even more in love — from her first smile, to her first giggle, to her first step, to her first word, I got to see it all. Izzy and I have a special bond one that I hope continues to grow as she gets older. To be honest, with Izzy in my life things seemed complete, I wasn’t sure I had enough room in my heart to love anyone else. But two years and twenty days later I was proved wrong.

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This is Mia, my second niece. One look at her and it turns out that my heart can love even more. I’m excited to watch Mia grow up and see how similar or different she is from her big sister Izzy. Although I’d be just as happy with a nephew, I’m happy that Isabelle has a sister. Having an older sister is a gift, you have an automatic best friend, mentor, and protector. I’m two years and two months younger than my sister and without her in my life I don’t know who or what I would’ve become.

“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.”
― Barbara Alpert

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

Long Weekend Loving

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal
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Long weekends in the summer are perfect for spending time in the sunshine, reading, and partying. This weekend we celebrated Isabelle’s second birthday and attended my aunt’s wedding. Both were lovely affairs filled with laughter, love, and drinks. I cannot believe that my niece is already two-years-old. She has such and incredibly demanding personality that oozes with charisma. She’s funny and loves to make people laugh. She obsesses over music, dancing, and movies. She enjoys my stories about Princess Isabelle and her best friend Waffles. Her smile is infectious, her memory incredible.

As I watched her interact with her cousins I saw how shy she really is, how much fun she has on her own and with others. I held her hand as we stepped into the the kiddy pool and wondered when she’d get to old (or too cool) to hold her Tia’s hand. I thought about how much she’s grown in a mere two years and couldn’t help but wonder who she will become. Then I snapped myself back to the present because she’s only two and time goes by too fast to keep thinking about the future.

“Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape…”
― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

The Brady Bunch

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

My very pregnant sister, brother-in-law, and nearly two-year-old niece moved in this past weekend while their house is undergoing some renovations. My sister moved out three years ago after she got married. Even though it was an adjustment, we all seemed to get used to a quieter house and one less person at the dinner table.

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Fast-forward three years and instead of four people and a dog in one house we’re eight and a half people (including Alex) and a dog. It’s a little hectic and slightly crazy to say the least. Izzy is a handful, a delightful ball of energy just wanting to play with me or workout with me or simply watch her Big Hero 6. As someone who appreciates her me time, it’s going to take a while to get used to.

All in all I’m insanely happy about them all moving in. Izzy brings a smile to my face every time I wake up and I missed having my sister in the same house as me. Yes, my wardrobe has doubled because of it but it’s more than that. When my sister is close by I feel calm, relaxed, and safe. She exerts that kind of energy, that everything will be okay kind of energy. With all of us under the same roof once again the house feels like even more of a home; something I didn’t think was possible.

It’s wonderful to have conversations with both my siblings as adults while still being able to make each other pee with laughter. It’s cathartic knowing that we can all hang out in the basement, one of us blogging, the other on their phone, and the other paying bills and still have so much to talk and laugh about. It’s crazy seeing the way our relationship with each other has changed over the years, how much stronger its gotten.

We might be the Brady Bunch at the end of the court for the next few months but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. 

“One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family.”
― Jonathan Safran FoerEverything Is Illuminated

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

 Goodbye Gourmet Pizza [ A Letter ]

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
  

 

On Wednesday evening, I got word that Caruso Gourmet Pizza locked its heavy black doors for good. Caruso Gourmet Pizza was many things to many people; an excuse to forgo their diet for one night, a place to relax over a cup of coffee with friends, a Friday lunchtime tradition with coworkers, and even a daily stop on the morning commute for the best cappuccino in town.

To me, Caruso’s was a second home. I first started working there at the age of sixteen, when they were located in a tiny shop on the second floor of a complex. In the ten years I worked there, I learned more about life, responsibility, and customer service than I thought possible. I made incredible friendships with coworkers and lasting relationships with the regulars.

Somewhere a long the line my bosses, Domenic and Dina Caruso, became a third set of grandparents to me. I talked to them openly about my life, my dreams, and my passions. Equally, I complained about my life, my dreams, and my passions. They always listened to me fully and gave me advice without hesitation. Dom and I spoke daily about books, writing, and even current events. He’d tell me story after story and more often than not, I’d leave for the day feeling inspired and ready to write.

In fairness, I’m not THAT special; Domenic and Dina had incredible relationships with every single one of their customers. During a busy lunch or dinner rush, they always made time to chat with a customer, or shake hands with a friend. Not to mention sending me from table to table with complimentary espressos in hand. To many, the building was much more than a place to eat;  it was a place to be among friends.

I am truly saddened by the closure of such a wonderful establishment. Caruso’s is a huge part of Bolton’s history, culture, and identity. I will miss the warmth of the ovens, the delicious pizza, and having a second place to call home.

Here’s is my heartfelt thank you to Domenic and Dina Caruso, for everything you’ve done for me personally, for everything you’ve done for this town, and for keeping the Bolton youth employed and on the right track. I wish you the best of luck and hope you can finally have some time for yourselves, you deserve it.

Love Always,
Vanessa Xo

Children are the BEST Teachers

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

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In eighteen months I’ve learned more about life from my niece than I have from adults in the twenty-six years I have been alive. This is nothing against the adults in my life, it’s just the simple truth: children are the best teachers. Let me explain…

On Saturday, I helped my niece put on her pink running shoes, jean jacket, and GAP baseball cap. She took my hand in hers and tugged me to the park near my parents’ house. When we arrived, she climbed the jungle gym with confidence and slid down the yellow germ-filled slide with wonder in her eyes. I slid down the slide beside her and for the first time in years I remembered what it felt like to have the purest form of fun. The fresh air in my face, the warm sun on my back, and my niece’s giddy laughter made me forget the world, my phone, and the time.

After the slide she ran over to the swing and yelled “HIGH! HIGH!” — being the great aunt that I am, I obliged and pushed her on the swing for over an hour. She sat there smiling, thinking thoughts I wish I could hear. Time slowed down and I felt completely relaxed. In that hour or so that I spent at the park with my niece, she taught me to live, to play, and to enjoy every moment. To reach higher, to laugh when I leave the ground, to let fear fall in the face of adventure, and to love unconditionally; without question.

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Eating Alone

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

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On Saturday after work I had a hankering for a Big Mac, and a hankering fuelled by hunger is one that must be taken care of. So, on the way to my boyfriend’s house I stopped at the McDonald’s and ordered myself a Big Mac. I paid the $8.00, which I made in tips the night prior, grabbed my tray and sat down alone to eat my meal. As I slowly savoured my french fries, allowing the tremendous amount of salt to cut my tongue, I wondered why I don’t go out by myself more often. As I gorged on my meal I people-watched and made up my own conversations based on their hand movements and facial expressions. I let my eyes wander and my mind create (that is my business after all). I even thought about what other people might think about me — Wow she looks hungry – is she even breathing between bites? She looks sad, maybe she just got dumped. Maybe she got stood up. Maybe she’s in rush. 

It’s an interesting feeling when you’re able to put your phone away and be left alone with your thoughts. To watch the world go on around you as you sit perfectly still. To marinate in your own thoughts, fears, and worries and really connect with them. As of late I feel like everyone is walking around in a frozen cloud of thoughts, unable to forget them, to control them, or really sift through them and figure things out. After lunch I felt a new air of confidence about the future, the present, and taking chances.

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

 HAVE A CHALLENGING, CREATIVE, AND WONDERFUL MONDAY!

Love always,
Vanessa XX

 

Chaos in the Kitchen [Wild Mushroom Fettuccine]

Chaos in the Kitchen

Last time on Chaos in the Kitchen, I whipped up a delicious clam, fennel, spinach, and white bean concoction from the cookbook Weeknight Fresh & Fast by Kristine Kidd. The other night I made a simple yet incredibly gut-satisfying wild mushroom fettuccine!

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Ingredients (for two servings)

  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon (I use Portuguese olive oil)
  • Pancetta, 1 and 1/2 oz chopped
  • Large shallots, 3 diced
  • Garlic glove, 1 chopped
  • Dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Wild mushrooms (portobello, shiitake, oyster, button)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Low sodium chicken broth, 3/4 cup
  • Butter, 1 tablespoon
  • Dry fettuccine, 6 oz
  • Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup freshly grated
  • Flat-leaf parsley, chopped for sprinkling

Instructions

  • Warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until brown (about 2 minutes). Add the thyme, shallots, and garlic, cook until they start to brown (about 4 minutes). Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper to taste (put a lid on the pan if you have one, it’ll keep in the moisture). Sauté until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the chicken broth and simmer until syrupy (about 3 minutes without the lid).
  • This wasn’t in the book’s recipe but if you add a tablespoon of butter to the “syrupy sauce” it’ll thicken it a little bit and add a velvety texture as well.

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  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 8 minutes).
  • Drain the pasta and add it to the mushroom mixture (keep a bit of the pasta water in case you find the dish too dry once plated).
  • Stir over medium heat until pasta is completely coated.
  • Divide portions, add parsley and grated parmesan.

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Although it doesn’t look as good as the photo in the cookbook, I have to admit that this is one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten (and the first that I’ve made). There is so much flavour in every forkful, every mushroom has a distinct taste and when added with the pancetta, my goodness you’ve got an explosion of deliciousness in every bite.

My parents, sister, brother-in-law (who is an Exec. Sous Chef at One restaurant in Yorkville), my boyfriend, and my niece LOVED the meal and it felt satisfying to see six empty plates reach the kitchen sink. I can’t wait until the next time I get to take over the kitchen! I’ve got The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook coming my way and I’m hoping that my next recipe will come from there!

People who love to eat are always the best people!          — Julia Child

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

Five Days into 2015 and so far…

Lifestyle/Personal

We’re five days into 2015 and so far I’ve caught a nasty cold, developed (is that the right word here??) a bladder infection, finished reading a novel, applied to ten jobs, felt so anxious it’s turned into nausea, deleted Facebook, stepped back from Instagram, spent loads of time with my family and boyfriend, watched The Theory of Everything, watched bits and pieces of Life Itself, and started writing a new short story for Passion8 Mag. I’ve mixed in the good with the bad simply because that’s how life works. Here’s hoping for a better week, a stomach that doesn’t feel so yucky, and making someone else happy.

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From Pinterest

 

 

Love always, 
Vanessa XX