Oh Sunday, I love you!

Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands

On Sunday, the sun shone through the blinds onto the kitchen counter and illuminated our quiet breakfast of toast, coffee, and our latest reads (a book for me and the CNN app on Alex’s phone). Alex looked at me and asked if I wanted to go out. We had no plan, no rhyme or reason to leave the house, but we did anyway. The sunshine filled us with excitement and warmth as we drove down to Of Things Past, a consignment store off of Dufferin. Since the purchase of our condo I can’t help but look anywhere and everywhere for future decor inspiration.

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From decorative chandeliers to dinnerware and gorgeous sofas, Of Things Past has one-of-a-kind pieces that will really make your house stand out. I fell in love with a desk or two and promised myself to head back there when we start buying furniture. Next we went over to Yorkdale and spend some time window-shopping and chatting. I fell in love with a new (to me) store — Anthropologie. I adore their home decor and their clothing. Their stationery and journals are adorable, their aprons are so sweet, and their dinnerware is gorgeous! As we sat down and had lunch at Joey’s (which was delicious), I couldn’t get my mind off of that store and the goodies I could treat myself to!

I have to admit that the best part of my day wasn’t the delicious meal or cappuccino pictured above, it was spending the day with my boyfriend. He has this way of making me focus on the now rather than the unknown future. He always makes me smile and never forgets to tell me that I’m beautiful. He constantly reminds me that it’s the little things matter.

Wishing you a lovely week!

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

El Camino Bracelets — How one young Canadian turned her passion into a business

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands
Photo taken by Candace Kellough

Photo taken by Candace Kellough

Imagine walking up the Costa Brava, Spain with a heavy backpack on your back, a skateboard in your arm, and the love of your life by you side. You’ve just walked 15 miles, up and back down mountains, and are ready to call it a day.

You find the perfect spot to set up your tent, have a snack (most likely something to do with peanut butter), and start bouncing ideas off one another. Just as the sun is about to set you come up with an idea that will transform you from wanderer to entrepreneur.

Candace Kellough and Tom Lane were backpacking from Barcelona to Monaco when they came up with El Camino Bracelets, a unisex bracelet for travelers. With the idea fresh in their minds and the knowledge that there wasn’t a product out there like the one they wanted to launch, they hopped on a train back to Barcelona and flew to England. There, they lived, worked, and saved for the start-up of their business.

El Camino bracelets represent your story and your journey around the world, according to the website. One bracelet easily replaces all of those knickknacks and dust collectors that many travelers accumulate while traveling. You can see every place you’ve travelled just by looking at your wrist.

Click on photo for original link.

Click on photo for original link.

“It takes about 20 minutes to make a single and about 30 minutes for a double,” said Kellough. “And of course, lots and lots of love goes into each El Camino. We’ve become quite attached to them and are always very curious where in the world they are going to end up.”

So far, El Camino bracelets have traveled to Canada, USA, Mexico, Ireland, all of the UK,

France, and Spain, she says.

Kellough and Lane make each bracelet by hand, and say they are proud of it. They keep everything local, says Kellough, and like knowing where all of their products are coming from. This is the basis of their business and something they want to hold onto as their company grows.

“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing and stay true to our roots. We want to expand organically by word of mouth and people spreading their love for everything we make,” Kellough said.

The bracelets can be double or single and are made from four high-strength woven cords available in black, turquoise, chestnut brown, red, steel blue, forest green or purple.

Each bracelet comes with a first ‘step’, which is stainless steel and engraved with El Camino. In order to start saving memories, you need to purchase what they call ‘steps’. They are engraved with the names of countries on them, with over 240 to choose from.

There are also ‘small steps’ which cover popular places that aren’t countries, like New York or Hawaii.  Next are the colourful ‘regional steps,’ which add a little excitement to your wrist and your travel story. Each ‘region’ is handmade in England and then sandblasted with the El Camino logo.

Finally, you can space out your steps and regions by adding wooden spacers, which are laser cut and made from mahogany or oak.

It’s a souvenir for travelers, by travelers.

Lane and Kellogg -- Photo from Candace Kellough

Lane and Kellogg — Photo from Candace Kellough

A native of Caledon, Ontario, Kellough says she became obsessed with traveling in her last year of university. She studied abroad in Alicante, Spain and says that teachers are so laid back when studying abroad.  They understand that the students are there to travel, learn, and experience new things. Being able to hop on a plane or train for a few hours and be engulfed by a different language and culture was exciting.

“I met so many people and experienced so much,” she said. “I realized that there is so much to see and do. After living in Alicante, I knew that there was no way I was ever going to be able to settle in one place for a long time.”

After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier’s business program, she worked two jobs and saved enough money to head to Europe. She spent some time backpacking, and eventually settled in Barcelona for a year and a half.

But Kellough’s Canadian blood missed the snow. Her next move found her in a tiny ski town in the French Alps, where she worked and snowboarded. It was there that she met Tom Lane, future business partner and beau, and fellow gypsy soul.

It was his messy hair that first caught her eye, says Kellough. They hit it off and soon were inseparable. The pair woke early to ski or snowboard, went to work, and met up after. Their days were long, and sleep was nonexistent, but it was worth it in the end.

When Kellough and Lane met, Lane was already in his fifth season in Meribel. Born in England, he spent his summers in Ibiza and his winters in France. He has been traveling for ten years, and both Kellough and Lane say it’s in his blood. His travels were originally limited to England, but that changed in when he decided to move to Spain.

Part of what drives their shared passion for travel is a thirst for new experiences.  Both of the young entrepreneurs admit that they get bored easily. They like to meet new people and try new things, and say travel is the best way to do that.

Since the start up of El Camino, though, Kellough says her lifestyle has done a complete 360.  There isn’t much time to bounce from country to country these days. The pair went from traveling ‘gypsies’ to working twelve-hour-days, every single day, she says.

They don’t mind though – they’re doing something they love, and are seeing the results of their hard work. They’re overwhelmed with such positive feedback and repeat orders. And with the job market the way it is in Canada, Kellough says she would still have gone the entrepreneurial route if she remained here.

“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing. It’s been in the back of my mind since I was young, I just never knew what that thing was going to go be or where it was going to happen” she says.

Working out of ‘The Treehouse,’ Kellough and Lane say they are learning something new every day, and firmly believe that passion dictates the success of any business. Their door is always open to the fresh air, something that helps calm their restless hearts. They love travel and everything that goes with it: long work days, bandaged fingers, and all.

http://elcaminobracelets.com

https://twitter.com/@ElCaminoB

https://www.facebook.com/ElCaminoBracelets

– Vanessa

** This article was originally posted on CANCULTURE.COM in April of 2013. It was edited by the talented Natalie Berchem. It got lost in the shuffle when the website was redesigned so I decided to share it here, on My Pen, My Voice.

** After this article was published, the owners of El Camino sent me my very on bracelet as a thank-you. I love it.

 

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

 

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

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