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

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

 

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

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

Connecting Moments [A NARRATIVE]

Fiction
From Pinterest

From Pinterest

Connecting Moments

Written by Vanessa Grillone on December 21 

When I awoke on Christmas morning, I pulled the black covers over my head and marinated in the stillness of the house. I breathed heavily, inhaling the stench of my own morning breath, bouncing off the covers and onto my face. I thought about my friend who had gotten engaged the night before. While she and her boyfriend of ten years skated hand-in-hand in the park, he faked a fall. Just as is started to snow, she leaned over to help him up. He got to his knee and pulled out the ring. I was there and it was magical, filled with kisses, hugs, tears, and giant snowflakes stuck on our faces. It made sense, it felt right. They were in love, they both had great careers, and they were old enough to know that their kind of love happens only once.

I thought about my other friend, living in Brooklyn, following her dreams. She’s living alone in a tiny apartment, trying desperately to become the well-known photographer she deserves to be. We had Skyped a few nights ago, she was on the brink of tears, sipping spiked coffee out of a chipped mug. She cried over the hours of work she did for free, over her rude boss (she is currently assisting one of the top magazine photographers in New York), over how lonely she felt, over how unhappy she was. She could barely pay the bills and had to ask her parents for money, which they happily gave her. She had always been independent but now she was alone and that was an intensely different thing. I did my best to make her laugh, to tell her that I’m just as alone as she feels, that I miss her and think about her all of the time. I reminded her that she is literally living the dream she talked about while we were in high school. I told her to go out and make friends, to get a part-time job at a pub and stop hiding from her new life. I told her that I envied her bravery and that if she gave it a chance, she could fall in love with Brooklyn.

I thought about my sister. The new(ish) mom with another one in the oven. I remembered how frightened she was when she found out she was pregnant for the first time. It was an accident, she told me. She wasn’t ready, she pleaded. She wouldn’t be a good mom and her boyfriend acted like a kid himself. She was inextricably wrong. My beautiful nephew was born and my sister and her now husband grew up and grew together. They became the parents they never thought they could be. They became the parents I knew they would become; loving, honest, and completely fair. They fell in love again and with the beginning of their own little family came a new chapter in all of our lives. My sister became a more thoughtful person, a more generous member of the human race.

My mind wandered to my parents and how much they’d given my siblings and I. Food on the table, hot water spewing from the faucets, an education, and love — things taken for granted in today’s society. I reminisced on all of the stories they told me, from the moment they met to the strict rules my mom’s parents had, to their wedding and financial scares. From their best moments to their worst. I thought about all of the sacrifices they made that I didn’t understand until recently. I contemplated on how many hours my father spent at the office and how he felt about missing some of our biggest moments. I wondered if he had regrets, the distant look in his eyes at the dinner table and the sad twinkling smile he gives to his grandson make me think that he does.

Just as I heard the front door open downstairs and let the smell of coffee enter my brain, I thought about myself and my future. I’d been complaining and crying over my lack of career, about allowing my life to become stagnant. I had suddenly, at the age of 27, become afraid of life. Afraid of applying to jobs because I might get rejected, afraid of taking the next step with my boyfriend, and agonizingly afraid that I made the wrong choice to follow my dreams. It’s interesting that when you look at someone else’s life you can bring clarity to their various moments, you can see how things are connected and appreciate them, but you can’t do it to your own.

I walked down the stairs on Christmas morning and picked up my nephew, who had been calling my name at the bottom of the stairs, I chose to appreciate that moment. I chose to understand that whatever happens next, that moment was important. And suddenly the idea of a new year and new opportunities filled me with excitement rather than the paralyzing fear I had gotten used to.

Vanessa Xo

*Connecting Moments is a work of fiction*

 

NEW MANTRA [LOVE LOVE LOVE]

Lifestyle/Personal

unnamedAs my mother stirred the heaping pot of sauce and meatballs, she called me over to take a look. With a smile stinging her lips she said, “I told you I always cook with love”. The heart in her sauce (you can see it right?) emulates just a few things that I love about life: pasta and family dinners.

There are many kinds of love in this world: I truly believe that you can love people, hobbies, AND food. I know for a fact that the more love or passion you put into something, the better it becomes. I’ve made myself quick meals just to eat something and it never tastes as good as the meals that I put effort and love into. I’ve written blog posts just to write them but I never get as much feedback on those ones as I do with the ones I put passion behind. When it comes to people, I love a lot of them, to varying degrees. I love my co-workers and friends like family, I love my family obsessively, I love my boyfriend to an incredibly disgusting degree, and most importantly I love myself and the woman I’ve become. The more I shower these people with love, the better I feel about life and about myself. Love, it’s all you need, amiright?

Put love into everything you do, every meal you make, and every word you write. 

– Vanessa

 

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

Obligatory (& Necessary) Thanksgiving Post

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

 

book-page-pumpkin-1_thumb[7]Although we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be thankful, we’re human. We’re self-obsessed beings who thrive on pity, and focus on the bad instead of the good. We need Thanksgiving to take a step back and think about all of the people and moments that make us happy. To remember that life is fragile and we should enjoy what we have before it gets taken away from us.

I’m thankful for… (equally and in no particular order) 

  • family and friends
  • my niece
  • my boyfriend
  • LOVE & LAUGHTER
  • sight and health
  • books and words
  • music and movement
  • travel and adventure
  • dreams and goals
  • traditions (new and old)
  • good food and sweet wine
  • inspiration and creativity
  • work
  • romance and hand holding
  • passion and dedication
  • YOU!
“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” 
― John Henry Jowett

 

Happy Thanksgiving!
Vanessa xo

Not That Kind of Girl [Book Review/Thank You]

Book Reviews

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I’ve been excited to read Not That Kind of Girl since my interning days at Random House Canada when the book was first announced. I’ve watched Girls on HBO and love it but my admiration for Lena Dunham has more so to do with her words and her kick-ass attitude than her acting. Not That Kind of Girl feels like you’re reading a script from Girls, except it’s a tad more poetic and 100% real. Lena holds nothing back, sharing insights and stories about love, sex, her body, friendship, work, and family life. She writes with honesty, conviction, and passion. In sharing everything she’s “learned’ you can’t help but learn something about yourself or about the person you want to be.

Lena’s book doesn’t need to be reviewed. No matter what I say fans  will still flock to bookshops and purchase their own copy. In the big scheme of publicity, my review will not boost her sales or gain her fans, so instead of writing a review I’d rather write a thank you.

Thank you for expressing everything that I have ever felt, witnessed, or experienced in a kick-ass, unforgiving way. Thank you understanding the basic human condition, that we are all assholes who are afraid of death. Thank you for making the personal essay cool, valid, relatable, honest, and smart. For publishing the kind of words that fill voids, generate laughter, and banish embarrassment. Reading your book has given me the courage to continue writing personal essays, to share my thoughts with the world, and to challenge myself as a writer. Thank you for showing me that every story is important and that my thoughts are valid.

lena-dunham

 

AND I DECIDED THEN THAT I WILL NEVER BE JEALOUS. I WILL NEVER BE VENGEFUL. I WON’T BE THREATENED BY THE OLD, OR BY THE NEW. I’LL OPEN WIDE LIKE A DAISY EVERY MORNING. I WILL MAKE MY WORK. (201)

 

Vanessa Xo

WILD [Book Review]

Book Reviews

WildTP_Books-330

My cousin Amanda recommended that I read WILD by Cheryl Strayed. It’s one of her favourite books, one that she knew I would love too. WILD is the most intense memoir(ish) book that I have read this year. Cheryl holds nothing back when retelling dark and incredibly personal stories from her childhood, her teen years, and her adulthood.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

I adored Cheryl’s writing style, her voice and her views on life. I held my breath on every word of every sentence. I cried, I laughed, I shuttered, and I wondered if I could ever do what The Queen of the PCT did. I enjoyed every person she met on the trail, I cringed at the thought of toenails falling off and the immense strain the hike put on her body, and I cried whenever she discovered something new about herself or her mother. I admire everything about her journey and more so, I admire her ability to write it all down and leave it on the page. WILD is about more than her literal journey, the PCT hike, it’s about life and how we approach it. It’s about the simplicity of complex problems if you just sit down, empty your pack, and think things through. It’s about how to carry yourself through life while understanding everything around you. It’s about lives ending too soon and appreciating the relationships that you have. It’s about goals and dreams and letting go when it’s time to let go.

“It was all unkown to me then….except the fact that I didn’t have to know. that it was enough to trust that what i’d done was true… to know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. that it was everything. it was my life — like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. so very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” 
Vanessa xx
*quote from pg 311