Life is Spectacular

Just for Fun, Restaurant Reviews

When life gets dark, the best thing to do is spend time with people who brighten your day. To take a drive to nowhere, have a glass of wine, read a great book, and remember that tomorrow is another day. Things haven’t been dark around here, they’ve just been changing too quickly, and I feel more change on the horizon. So on Sunday Alex and I took a drive over to Oakville, a beautiful quiet city sitting pretty on the lakeshore. We drove around, enjoying the beautiful homes and quaint shops, grabbing a bite to eat at The Crepe Kitchen. The smell wafting from the tiny restaurant enticed us to talk in. It’s a sweet restaurant with cork placemats, antique mirrors on every wall, and mismatched furniture. I ordered and devoured a delicious caprese crepe filled with salty proscuitto, fresh tomatoes, crisp basil, and smooth mozzarella.

It felt great to step out of the everyday routine and concentrate on the food on my plate rather than the millions of things going on in my head. It felt wonderful being in a new place on a crisp Fall day, watching the leaves change and squirrels cross the street. It felt spectacular to just be and enjoy and let everything else melt away.

 

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Life is spectacular. Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to where ever time washes away to. 
— Tim Tharp

 

Vanessa Xo

kisses and car rides all over ontario

Categories, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

Of the many things to love about summer, car rides are my absolute favourite. Sure, reading in the warm sunshine, hearing the beloved ice cream truck song outside my bedroom window, attending weddings and showers, and sitting on patios are amazing BUT I can’t get enough of car rides. The bf and I love driving to random places within Ontario. We love heading up to his aunt and uncle’s trailer or Googling “fun little towns in Ontario”. Last summer we spent an entire day roaming Niagara on the Lake, two years ago it was St.Jacobs. We fall in love with the various shops and enjoy sitting on the patio of a local pub eating the greatest greasiest fast food.

Last week we took an impromptu drive to Burlington and once again, I fell in love. We took a walk along the Lakeshore, the air was crisp and the sun was beaming. Then we had a bite to eat at The Queens Head (I ate delicious buttermilk chicken fingers the size of my head), spent a few minutes in their local bookstore (A Different Drummer Books), and ended off the day trying some vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, everything free desserts at Kelly’s XO Bake Shoppe.

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I don’t know exactly where our next car ride will take us but I have dreams of going to Viamede Resort in the Kawarthas and staying for the weekend, maybe to Montreal, and someday out east to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I. I’d also love to head back west to Vancouver — I LOVED IT THERE, it’s a long car ride but it might be fun. All you need is good music, good conversation, and great company to make the best of any car ride.

Thankfully, I’ve got all three.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Vancouver 2013 [Travel Diary]

Categories, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

I am a horrible traveller; I hate flying, I end up constipated no matter how long I’m away from home, and if there is any kind of time change you can count me out from any event happening after 9 p.m. That said, I still LOVE to travel. I love to see new places, try different restaurants, and I love being a tourist. I’ve travelled quite a bit in the past four years but I must admit that Vancouver has been my favourite destination. For a quick recap of my trip you can check out my post on Chic Darling (which will be up shortly), for a more intimate recap, keep on reading…

Vancouver is a beautiful city surrounded by picturesque mountains. The air is so clean and fresh I felt I was breathing for the first time. The city is quaint and relatively quiet, yet filled with bikers, runners, rollerbladers, and beautiful people (there must be something in the air). The funny thing about Vancouver is that no one is actually FROM there. When you eavesdrop on conversations that is the first thing you’ll notice. They’ll say “I’m originally from Mississauga or Halifax or Barrie or Nova Scotia”. At first you’ll wonder why exactly they moved all the way out there to be a waiter but after a quick walk around the city you’ll begin to understand their motives.

On our trip we got to spend a few days with my boyfriend’s aunt and uncle. It’s amazing how different a trip can be when you know people who live there. They took us to two fabulous restaurants that we never would have found on our own: Nook (aka the best pizza ever) and Brown’s (aka Moxie’s but with good food). They were also our ride and excellent tour guides to/in Whistler, BC. I am so thankful that they were able to take us to the most beautiful place on earth, a place that will make you understand what it really means to catch your breath. Although I would recommend proper footwear, you should definitely take the ski lifts to the top of the mountain, it is the most relaxing thing I’ve ever experienced. On your way back to the city be sure to stop at all of the viewpoints — you will not believe your eyes.

Thank you Zia Anna and Zio Joe for the best day of our trip in Vancouver, I will never forget your hospitality and great conversation.

We will be back to visit sooner than later 😉

What else can I say about Vancouver?

  • If you find a great deal, stay at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel. It’s clean, luxurious, and the staff is unbelievably accommodating. They have a great gym, a large pool, and a spa (which I wish I tried out). They also have a wonderful driver named Jim — he will drive you anywhere in the city (within 15 minutes of the hotel) in his Bentley — for free. AND he makes an excellent tour guide! Thanks for the rides and information, Jim!
  • The coffee in Vancouver is expensive and bitter. I advise a walk to Tim’s whenever you’re in the mood for a cuppa joe, it’s the ONLY good cup of coffee I had all week.
  • For a fancy dinner and incredible meal check out Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar. The atmosphere is both dark and romantic with a hint of class. They have a great outdoor patio with a fireplace crackling in the background if the weather permits. Alex would probably recommend the steak and mashed potatoes, while I would recommend the salmon and a brownie for dessert.
  • If possible, go to Vancouver with people you love — or the love of your life. Vancouver is a great city to experience with someone, especially someone who loves to explore. Someone who will take you to the art gallery and not rush you through it, who will walk around the mall with you, who will help pick out gifts for your future niece, who will make sure you don’t fall when you’re walking up snow-covered mountains in sandals. Someone who will let you rest when jet lag is kicking your ass all over town, and who will surprise you with cupcakes when you finally wake up from the longest cat-nap ever. Someone who will have flowers delivered to the restaurant just before you sit down for dinner. Someone who will make you laugh, someone who will make sure that you make the most of your trip. Someone who will make your trip unforgettable. Thank you for a great trip, Alex!

Vancouver 2013 – Photo Diary

Obligatory Wing-Shot

Obligatory Wing-Shot

Granville Island Market

Granville Island Market

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Us and Jim's Bentley in Granville Island

Us and Jim’s Bentley in Granville Island

Our Hotel

Our Hotel

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Gastown

Gastown

Stanley Park

Stanley Park

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Until our next travel adventure…

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Living for the Weekend…

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

Although I love my busy weekdays, nothing compares to a weekend filled with great food, great company, an interesting book, and a sun that won’t stop shining. During the week I don’t see much of my family, sometimes it’s two or three days before I actually see my brother, so I love spending weekends in their company. On Friday my sister and bf came over and we had a movie date with my dad — Django Unchained is the best movie ever!

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My niece is getting big (or so I would assume by the way my sister’s stomach is expanding) and she has the softest, sweetest kicks/punches. You really have to press down on my sister’s belly to feel Izzy’s punches or her heartbeat but it is the most beautiful tap I’ve ever felt. Next time Jess comes over I’m going to read Izzy a story, my favourite in fact (The Balloon Tree) so she can get used to hearing my voice.

Yesterday the bf and I went for a little drive and ended up at Katz’s Deli near Yorkdale Mall. My mouth is watering just thinking about the warm corned beef sandwich on rye bread, topped with mustard, that we demolished in about 30 seconds. It’s a great place with deliciously fresh food and fantastic coffee. It’s been around since 1970 and is the perfect Saturday meal. They have an eat-in and take-out option and their cashier is a wonderful old man, using an old-school cash register, cracking jokes at your expense. I will be back more often than I should now that I know how close it is to the subway.

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I hope you all enjoyed this beautiful sunny weekend.

I hope you spent it with the people you love, with wonderful food, and with the comfort that comes from having a great book waiting for you whenever you get home.

Love Always 

Vanessa Xo 

When I dip, you dip, we #ChickNDip [Event Recap]

Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

Remember when I got to participate in the #ChickNDip conversation at the end of February? Well, now I’d like to tell you more about it. Brand and Buzzing Media hosted a fantastic event showcasing Yorkshire Valley Farms Organic Chicken Nuggets, as well as, 11 AMAZING sauces. I’ve read some pretty scary stories in the newspaper lately about antibiotics in chicken and how they affect US and I must say that it’s wonderful to find a company that believes in ORGANIC chicken. I feel safe eating their products.

“At Yorkshire Valley Farms we raise your food the way nature intended. Our organic, free range chickens are fed only the finest certified organic grains, with no antibiotics, hormones or animal bi-products added.

We raise our chickens on certified organic farms in Ontario in the most natural and healthy environment possible, open to sunlight and fresh air. Processing is done to exacting standards in an organically certified facility.”

From Left to Right: James Sculthorpe (President (Yorkshire Valley Farms), Rossy Earle (Owner of SupiCucu) and Nike Ahrens (Farmer & Owner Betolianni Organic Farms) — at SubZero Wolf Showroom.

From Left to Right: James Sculthorpe (President Yorkshire Valley Farms), Rossy Earle (Owner of SupiCucu) and Nike Ahrens (Farmer & Owner Betolianni Organic Farms) — at SubZero Wolf Showroom.

I tasted the nuggets with and without the sauces and I must say that even after eating 10-15 (okay more like 20) of them I didn’t get that heavy or bloated feeling that I usually get when I eat chicken nuggets. They tasted wonderful on their own and I think they’re going to be a frequent addition to our freezer.

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Now on to the sauces…

I got to dip my chickn’ into Bumpercrop’s Green Tomato Garlic Jam, Bonne Maman’s Plum Spread, Eudora’s Fine Foods Khaldin, Billy Bee’s Honey, McEwan’s Own Bacon Jam, Killer Condiments’ Sweet Pepper Relish, Rossy’s Diablo’s Fuego, DA Foods’ Southern Blues Original BBQ Sauce, Neal Brothers Toasted Sesame Salad Dressing & Honey Dijon Salad Dressing, AND Maggi Canada’s Hot and Sweet Sauce. I swear I have never tasted so many unique and wonderful sauces in my life!

My favourites were McEwan’s Own Bacon Jam, Neal Brothers’ Toasted Sesame Salad Dressing, and Rossy’s Diablo’s Fuego. They all had rich and intense flavours that kept me coming back for another dip — seriously, I stuck by them all night. The Toasted Sesame Salad Dressing is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, it’s sweet but not overly so. It make my taste buds swing dance! Rossy’s Diablo’s Fuego has a wonderful kick to it but it still provides FLAVOUR. Your mouth isn’t burning so much that you can’t taste your food, it teases you with heat and goes away leaving a sweet and sour flavour to enjoy. The bacon jam is simply perfection.

Each sauce complimented the chicken nuggets in their own way and I must say that all of the attendees complimented the event even more so. It was great to attend a foodie function and to talk to people who know food on a different level than I do. I met a lot of inspiring young people and had great conversations with them. Thank you to Yorkshire Valley Farms and Brand and Buzzing Media for a fantastic event!

It really was a wonderful evening and I urge you to test out any and ALL of these dipping sauce.

Have your own CHICKNDIP soiree with your besties!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Sometimes life likes to throw things at me

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

Sometimes life likes to throw things at me — like ceiling tiles, cars, and snow — and no I don’t mean any of those metaphorically. None of which hit me, they just missed. They got my blood pumping though, they woke me up, they scared the crap out of me (almost literally). After a near breakdown this morning I remembered my horoscope from yesterday: don’t give up or give in, even when the sky is falling.

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Love Always

Vanessa Xo

 

P.S Stay tuned to my twitter account tonight, I get to be apart of the #ChickNDip conversation! I’ll be trying out organic nuggets from Yorkshire Valley Farms and dipping them into some amazing sauces!

I just blog. A lot.

Categories, Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

“So, what kind of blogger are you?” a question that was asked many times at my first fashion event at Minling Pan Studio.

I am a player -- I blog a lot, about everything.

I am a player — I blog a lot, about everything.

I’m still trying to find my place. I’m trying to figure out my niche. I blog, a lot, about everything. I follow the most amazing fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, food bloggers, book review bloggers, and lifestyle bloggers, and I’m trying desperately to find my place in the mix. I’m trying to stand out in the WORLD WIDE WEB. I started this blog as a compliment to my diary and it has become so much more to me than that. It has helped me meet some amazing people, go to some fantastic book and beauty events, and I am so thankful for that. I hope that I can attend many more and that somewhere along the line I’ll find my niche, my thing.

On second thought, maybe I never will — maybe my thing is writing about everything.

Maybe I don’t really have a niche.

Maybe I’m a Writer and that’s all there is to it.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Stay tuned for three new posts on Chic Darling, a review of The Dinner by Herman Koch, a new Buytopia deal, a book review blogger event, and who knows what else!! 😛 🙂

My drug and my vice.

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews

I’ve never been one to do certain things alone, like go out for a meal or to a cafe to read. Yesterday I decided to give it a whirl. I went to my work, Caruso Gourmet Pizza, ordered a minestrone soup and took out my copy of The Diary of Anaïs Nin 1931-1934.

This is the half-eaten version of my soup. It also came with toasted bread and oil and vinegar to dip it in -- SO GOOD.

This is the half-eaten version of my soup. It also came with toasted bread and oil and vinegar to dip it in — SO GOOD.

I sat in the sweet silence of my own bubble and read and ate to my heart’s content. The soup warmed me, fueled me, nurtured me. The words of Anaïs Nin inspired me, moved me, woke me up.

“This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice. Instead of writing a novel, I lie back with this book and a pen, and dream, and indulge in refractions and defractions… I must relive my life in this dream. This dream is my only life.” (ix)

Her words are so smooth, simple, and silky. She writes in a way that I only hope I aspire to. My pen is my vice, my diary (and my extension this blog) is my drug — Anaïs Nin took the words right out of my mouth. That is all I thought about after finishing the introduction of her book, realizing that I had spent more than 45 minutes eating and reading, alone. I had eaten slowly and consciously. I enjoyed every morsel of my food. I read with purpose and I felt the words come alive within me.

When I finally went on my way, with a coffee in hand, I drove slowly and looked around. I absorbed the pastel blue sky and watched it being chased by the slow-moving, soft clouds. In fact everything around me looked soft. The snow looked like velvet — touchable. The dead and thorny trees somehow even looked friendly to me.

And then I realized … I should probably keep my eyes on the road…

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Oh, but what a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I felt refreshed, light, focussed, and prepared to see and appreciate the world around me. 

When I reached my destination I took out my pen and my pink Moleskin, and wrote about it…

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Board Games FTW!

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands

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Although my favourite pastimes include reading, writing, and blogging, I’ve been taking some time to do other things during the holidays. Most importantly spending time with my family, as well as the bf’s family. The other night at the bf’s aunt’s house we decided to play a few board games and we started with (the surprisingly challenging) Scrabble.

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I don’t remember being a board game lover as a kid, except for DREAM PHONE…

 

…but after a few rounds of Scrabble and an intense game of Snakes & Ladders, I developed a new appreciation for them and their ability to create some family bonding time. I enjoyed our board game night so much that last night we had an Oscar Trivia night over coffee/wine with my parents, and today we purchased a few games for New Year’s Eve.

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I know that nothing brings a family together like a great meal but I think board games have the ability to do the same – add in a little wine and you’ve got the most wonderful evening ahead. THAT is how I plan on spending my New Year’s Eve, celebrating 2012 and ringing in 2013 surrounded by my family, my boyfriend, great food, a few glasses of wine, and playing board games to my heart’s content.

I’m hoping that after the winding-down of twenty-twelve, I will be able to look forward to the new year. I feel as though I’m just waiting for a reason to try something new, to send out short stories to magazines, to find the job of my dreams, to travel, to change around this blog, to take some writing classes – ya know, to get started on all of my resolutions.

As this year comes to an end I will spend the next few days reflecting, remembering, and rejoicing in the year I just had. I’m going to scoop up all of those memories and promises I made to myself and act on them.

Love Always 
Vanessa Xo