What is Happy?

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal

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I had a thought yesterday and it created another thought, which rolled into another, and then into a labyrinth of the best thoughts that could be thunk. But then the phone rang. POOF! Gone. My life has become a series of cycles; planning, researching, working, budgeting.

Apparently that is what growing up is all about. On my drive to work I often think about happiness, I look at the person in the car next to me and wonder if they’re happy. I wonder if they like their job, if they’re passionate about what they do. I imagine what their home-life, love-life, and hobbies are. I wonder, what is happy?

My happy comes in the form of moments. My niece’s smile, a perfectly written sentence, my fiance’s hand reaching for mine, a drive up north, having dinner with my family, crying over a character in a book, saying something smart or witty enough to evoke laughter from someone. My happy comes from something more than 9-5, although I do leave the office feeling accomplished and useful, my life will always be about more than that.

That is my happy. What’s yours?

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

The Red Bow: Newer + Simpler

Fashion & Beauty, Giveaways, Products and Brands

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I love pretty things and this love brought me into contact with The Red Bow almost two years ago. Since then I’ve written about them several times, shopped on the website on numerous occasions, and even teamed up with them to host a giveaway or two. The mastermind behind The Red Bow is Karen Viray : a smart, passionate, kick-ass woman who has been a source of inspiration time and time again.

I connected with her recently to talk about Th Red Bow. When I asked her what her favourite pretty things are she replied: It is really difficult to choose but I love pretty books, desserts and wallpaper. On The Red Bow, I’d have to say our new macaron-shaped mini boxes. They are honestly so pretty and real looking, I love just having them on my desk or on my vanity. They are actual macaron-size and can hold small things like earrings or breath mints (or Advil, if you’re like me and keep them at your desk – it’s definitely a way prettier way of storing them lol).

When I heard that The Red Bow was getting a facelift and a complete relaunch my excitement was taken to the next level. When I asked Karen why she decided to change things around she told me that since she wants to keep The Red Bow a small business, she thought it would be best to make it as uncomplicated as possible. Simplifying the website and narrowing down the products to better reflect who she is will not only give her time to connect with her customers in a personal way, but it will also help her manage life/work and everything else in a more sane and (healthy?) way. It also gives her the time she needs to keep up her hand-written notes and personal wrapping for her customers.

That, that right there is why I’ve continued to be a huge fan of The Red Bow AND Karen. She says, I see The Red Bow as more of a community, rather than just another dime-a-dozen online shoppe selling similar things as everyone else. I want to grow the trb community with more online engagement, collaborations, blog content, local events and charity outreach.

The store will include three simple sections: PRETTY ACCESSORIES (statement pieces, old favourites, and new goodies), PRETTY BEAUTY (yummy fragrances and the very best Korean beauty products), and PRETTY HOME (art prints, stationery, journals, and even home decor accessories). I have earrings, a clutch, a bracelet, notebooks, art prints, and an iPhone case from The Red Bow and cannot wait to see all of the new products they have in stock. Karen is super excited to share some NEW favourite things with her customers too. Karen divulges that she’s MOST excited about the pretty beauty section, since beauty, make-up and skin care have always been an obsession hers. The newest products that the red bow will be carrying is a small selection of my favourite, and a few cult favourite, beauty products from Asia, she says. I for one cannot wait to get my hands on some of these products!

As for the future of The Red Bow, Karen says; I definitely look forward to seeing how it will transform in the next 5 years. Small businesses grow, just as the people behind them grow as well.  It’s a creative synergy. I couldn’t agree more! I was given a sneak peek of the new site – which will officially launch on June 1st, 2015 – and was blown away by the sheer beauty of it. Everything Karen set out to accomplish with the relaunch has been brought into fruition and I cannot wait for other lovers of pretty things to check it out!

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

A Robot in the Garden [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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I read the loveliest book from Penguin Random House this past weekend. A Robot in the Garden is a coming-of-age story about finding love in the unlikeliest of place. It’s about self-love and self-worth, about grieving and forgiveness. It’s about taking chances and doing what is right, regardless of the risks involved.

For floundering 34-year-old Ben Chambers the answer is obvious: find out where it came from and take it there to be fixed, even if it means risking his marriage in the process. Determined to achieve something for once in his life, Ben embarks on a journey that takes him and the endearing robot, Tang, to the far side of the globe…and back again. Together they will discover that friendship can rise up under the strangest circumstances, and that Artificial Intelligence can teach a man what it is to be human. 

WHY I LOVED A ROBOT IN THE GARDEN 

  • There is so much beauty in it, from the cover to the characters to the words
  • It’s been a while since I picked up a book and got the warm-and-fuzzies with every page I turned (I haven’t cried this much over a book since The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry)
  • I could tell that Deborah Install LOVED writing this book, you could feel her passion for the written word and the basic human condition in every single sentence
  • It made me feel good about life
  • It is essentially about finding love and creating your own happiness, and I love love.

Here was a robot who didn’t understand the concept of ‘why’, who struggled with the idea of motivations…But of all the complex human emotions he could have settled on, he seemed to understand love. (page 168 of the ARC)

Look out for A Robot in the Garden in June! 

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo 

Without Writing I am…

Uncategorized

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Whether you’ve noticed or not, it’s been 10 days since I’ve posted anything new on my blog. It’s not that I haven’t been writing (because without writing I am not myself) it’s that I haven’t felt like sharing. Every blogger I knew goes through this, moments of self-doubt or fear that they’re sharing too much. Moments where they feel as though they’d rather be doing something else. Moments where they contemplate the point of their blog’s existence.

Recently I’ve been having trouble relating to my blog and the person who created it. I’ve wondered whether or not my last post really should have been on December 31st, 2014, but then I realized that my lack of blog posts has nothing to do with who I am as a person or writer, and everything to do with the fact that I have more going on in my life now than I once did. I’m currently learning loads in my new role as Customer Service Coordinator at Serrano Imports, I’m taking a social media marketing course at George Brown, I’m trying to stay fit and healthy, and…this past weekend I got engaged!!

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So if my posts come few and far between for the next little while, you know why.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

The Bus Stop [A Narrative]

Fiction
From the Madai Website

From the Madai Website

She stands at the bus stop on a busy, yet small, highway on the first warm day of Spring. Her auburn hair is neatly curled, recently cropped short at the nape of her neck. She looks at her freshly painted red nails, walks her index finger up her chest to finger her pearls delicately. She catches her reflection in the bus shelter and grimaces at her dress; what once tickled her figure and hugged her in all of the right places now stretches around her mushy flesh.

When she takes her seat on the bus, she knows that she is over-dressed compared to the early-morning commuters. She cares but not enough to run off the bus and head home; in thirty minutes she’ll be sitting under the sun on the lush grass, talking to the man she loves most.

He won’t care about her weight gain; men never notice petty things like that. He’ll watch her strut toward him in his favourite black dress of hers and suddenly space and time will have no meaning. She is his happiness. Sitting on the bus, wearing the pearls he gave to her for her 30th birthday, she is anxious to see him. Little does she know that he already sees her and she is his beautiful, glowing widow.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Wake The Stone Man [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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In April I received a copy of the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature (2014) winner, Wake The Stone Man, from Fernwood Publishing. At first I didn’t know what to make of it, there was so much going on! But once I was ready to take it all in I became completely enveloped in the story.

Molly and Nakina meet in Fort Mckay, a small Northern town, with a mythical stone man who “watches” over the inhabitants. Nakina is Ojibwe, which translates to having a difficult time fitting in and keeping safe. She is beautiful, womanly, and strong. Molly, on the other hand, is rail thin and quietly curious. I really got into the story when I realized how similar I am to Molly. We like to read, watch, and then create — for her it’s art, for me it’s words.

Wake The Stone Man depicts a friendship that many readers can relate to; filled with fear, guilt, love, happiness, and regret. Their losses both individually and together fuel the novel and give the storyline its gumption. It is written from Molly’s point of view with honesty and integrity. Carol McDougall has written a novel ending with an epic reminder that life can indeed go wrong, but sticking around is sometimes the best thing you can do.

She reminds the reader that circumstances have a way of going full-circle and that it is important to continue to search for answers. McDougall reminds her readers that they have the strength and courage to change their own lives, and the world.

“…I decided goodnuff wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted out. I kept thinking about that girl I’d seen trying to escape over the fence of the residential school. I figured she wanted out too.” (11)

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

SYNOPSIS

Set in a small northern town, under the mythical shadow of the Sleeping Giant, Wake the Stone Man follows the complicated friendship of two girls coming of age in the 1960s. Molly meets Nakina, who is Ojibwe and a survivor of the residential school system, in high school, and they form a strong friendship. As the bond between them grows, Molly, who is not native, finds herself a silent witness to the racism and abuse her friend must face each day.

In this time of political awakening, Molly turns to her camera to try to make sense of the intolerance she sees in the world around her. Her photos become a way to freeze time and observe the complex human politics of her hometown. Her search for understanding uncovers some hard truths about Nakina’s past and leaves Molly with a growing sense of guilt over her own silence.

When personal tragedy tears them apart, Molly must travel a long hard road in search of forgiveness and friendship.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
Photo from Ultralinx

Photo from Ultralinx

When I was younger I was against looking back; moving forward meant forgetting the past. Yesterday as I went through my various memory boxes and packed up my old notebooks, I realized that sometimes the only way to know how to move forward is by looking back.

Relationships are quickly put into perspective as memories jump out of photos and leap off of letters. Reminders of who you were and how far you’ve come smile at you like an old friend. Suddenly your entire world expands and everything makes sense, including the hard times you couldn’t control, the hard times that you created, and even the good times you didn’t think could be beat.

“Taking time to look back, is a foundation on course to build a stable future.”
Unarine Ramaru

Here’s to a brand new week of a brand new month. Remember that you can face anything that this week throws your way. Remember to start and end each day with a smile. Remember to love.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

 

The Rise of Self-Love

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands

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I received a press-release recently about Triumph’s Beauty-Full collection. I don’t purchase underwear or lingerie all that often, so this press release fell short for me in actually purchasing anything from Triumph. What didn’t get lost on me was the fact that sometime in the last year or so, the definition of beauty has changed from being thin to being in love with your skin.

I love how little I hear about wanting to be skinny, about losing weight. I love that it’s more about being healthy and eating the right food. I love that there are women out there like the owners of The Store On Queen who emulate health, confidence, and beauty regardless of weight or size. I love that celebrities like Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Pink, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, and Lena Dunham are dismissing body-shamers and spreading love, light, and self-worth.

I love that my generation and the younger generation (from what my narrow little brown eyes have seen) have snubbed the notion that being thin is equivalent to being beautiful. I love going to the mall and seeing young women of all shapes and sizes trying on clothes and walking around with their heads held high. I know that there are tonnes of wicked and sad things going on in the world, but I also know that good things will only happen if we build ourselves up rather than cut ourselves down.

“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.”  ― Simone de Beauvoir

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Photo from: Lotus Leaf*

The Perfect Word [Thoughts on #Writing]

Lifestyle/Personal

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As a writer, using the correct wording isn’t enough, you have to use the ONLY word in the entire English language (or whichever language you write in) that will make the sentence perfect. And there is only ONE word — not a jumble of words listed in a thesaurus to choose from.

Days are longest when that word won’t come out from behind the bushes, when I’m lost in a labyrinth of possibilities and none of them stick out at me. There are days that turn into weeks when nothing sounds right. It is all crap. It’s those days or weeks that I question my abilities as a writer. Those days when I rush through a post or an email and scream at my reflection in the computer screen FRAUD!

Then there are days when all of the words are perfect; they exist one by one in perfect harmony. Together. Separate. They are my salvation.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo