Falling into a New Season

Fashion & Beauty, Lifestyle/Personal

“Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.” ― Truman CapoteBreakfast at Tiffany’s

I love the stillness that comes with Fall. I love the silence. I love the idea that hibernation is in the forecast. After a crazy-busy-beautiful summer I am ready for a change of pace. I am yearning for cooler weather, warm sweaters, dark nail polish, and pumpkin-spiced everything. Call me crazy but Fall is my favourite season. It has potential, it radiates happiness with modest charm, and although I’m officially not in school anymore, it still has that air of change, growth, and excitement.

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I’m looking forward to a Fall filled with new adventures, exploring different styles, and creating new goals. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, long drives surrounded by trees with leaves ignited by colour. I’m looking forward to cool evenings with my laptop on my lap, words floating around in my mind, and a hot cuppa tea nearby.

I’m looking forward to it all.

xoxo,

Vanessa 

The Bride’s Diary – The Planning Begins

Lifestyle/Personal

The Bride's Diary

I’ve been in at least one bridal party a year for the last five years. I’ve been apart of the entire planning process from invitations to guest list to DJ to dress shopping and everything in between. In all honesty, planning a wedding seemed both mentally and financially exhausting. It wasn’t until Alex proposed that I started thinking seriously about what I wanted our wedding to be like. We’re a simple, no-fuss couple who isn’t into the huge traditional Italian/Portuguese wedding.

So after a few weeks of deliberating, discussing with our parents, and maybe even a few heated arguments we decided on a Friday ceremony at a hall with a 150 person guest list. We decided on a four-person-informal-bridal-party and an open bar. We agreed that our wedding didn’t need to be a show, a celebration yes, but not a spectacle. That is what we are going for. The trouble is that even a celebration comes with an excessive TO-DO List…

  1. Hall
  2. D.J.
  3. Photographer
  4. Officiant
  5. Cake
  6. Invitations
  7. Guest List
  8. Dress/Suit/Shoes
  9. Flowers
  10. Makeup and Hair
  11. Rings
  12. Honeymoon
  13. Transportation
  14. Bridal Shower
  15. Wedding Gifts for guests

I’m sure I’m missing a few things but you catch my drift. Thankfully, we have so many people around us that are ready to step in and help. The next year is going to be a crazy one so stay tuned.

Weddings are important because they celebrate life and possibility.

— Anne Hathaway

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

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

 

Whiplash: the film, the writing, the life you’re living

film, Lifestyle/Personal

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Last weekend, Alex and I watched Whiplash. He’d seen it before and said to me, “when you watch this, think about your writing”, so I kept that in mind as the opening credits rolled out. There’s no denying that Whiplash is a time-bomb of emotion, a story that depicts what it really takes to be one of the greats. There’s a part in the film where the band teacher (Fletcher) says to his student (Andrew), “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job”.  Why? because it promotes mediocrity. It promotes that just because you’re good, you don’t have to push yourself beyond the capabilities that you don’t even know are there.

I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that’s an absolute necessity

If you’ve watched Whiplash, you’ll know that Fletcher is a little insane in the way he pushes his students – especially Andrew. But it kinda worked, didn’t it?

Andrew: But isn’t there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage he next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?

Fletcher: No, man, no. Because Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.

This line moved me beyond belief. It inspired me to sit down every morning and evening this week; to write all of the words I could let out of my head. It inspired me to start trying again, to believe in myself, and to push myself harder when the words won’t flow as well as I hoped they would. Because, the next Dorothy Parker would never get discouraged.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Quotes from Imdb*

Shed your Skin

Lifestyle/Personal

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Those days are going to come and go. The days where you feel inadequate as a writer, noticing the strides other people are making, wondering why you’re not working hard enough to make them yourself. The days where the words get stuck in your brain, turning into a web of thoughts that cannot untangle. The days when you go to work with the most positive attitude and whimper in the bathroom because you’re making mistakes or feel overwhelmed. The days where nothing you do is right, or even enough. One of those days where you feel like shedding your skin and starting fresh.

Days and weeks where your anxiety becomes so intense it paralyses you, body and mind. You make an appointment with the doctor and the hairdresser on the same day at the same time. You forget about that story you started writing or that you promised to get together with a friend. It gets so bad that you feel sick ever day, your head aches, and your body sore. Those days where you take the anti-anixety pills your doctor gave you, but they just make things worse. They turn you into some kind of zombie, The Walking Dead are more alive than you.

But then there’s a day where everything is okay. Not just okay, but magical in its closeness to perfection. A day where you feel good, write well, and work better. Where a smile doesn’t leave your face and laughter widens your mouth letting through a booming sound known as pure, innocent happiness. A day where you know in your heart of hearts that you are loved, that you love others, and that even the bad days aren’t so bad at all.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Photo from Pinterest*

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison [Book Review]

Book Reviews

I have a confession: I’ve never read a novel by Toni Morrison. I know, what kind of reader am I?! So, when I got to choose which novel to review for Random House this month, I chose God Help the Child.

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Documenting all aspects of childhood fear, racism, rape, and yearning for love, Toni Morrison takes her reader on one of the most engaging journeys I have ever read. The story centers around a woman described as black-blue in colour and unbeliveably beautiful. She has a powerhouse position at a make-up company and saunters around wearing all white. Bride’s colour caused her fair-skinned mother to den her all of the simplest forms of love. This causes Bride to tell a lie so intense that it ruins the life of a another woman.

Weaved into her story are accounts told by Bride’s best friend Brooklyn, Bride’s lover Booker, a girl named Rain, Bride’s mother Sweetness, and Sofia. Their pasts and presents collide, leaving the reader feeling unhinged and passionately addicted to their stories. Stories that focus more on forgiveness and love than pain and regret.

Thank you. You showed me rage and frailty and hostile recklessness and worry worry worry dappled with such uncompromising shards of light and love it seemed a kindness in order to be able to leave you and not fold into a grief so deep it would break not the heart but the mind… (pg150)

Written with lush and lyrical prose, God Help the Child is a novel you won’t soon forget.

Love Always
Vanessa Xo

New Mantra: Write Like A Motherf*cker

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal
From Buzzfeed

From Buzzfeed

Over the last week or so I’ve been reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. It was recommended to me by Kaiti from HarperCollins Cananda and my cousin Amanda. I don’t want to finish it. It’s a compilation of the columns Cheryl wrote for The Rumpus and goodness it’s gorgeous. It’s an advice column but raw, unfiltered, honest, and breathtaking. You get sucked into Dear Sugar’s words and end up feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle the day.

One column in particular had me in tears before work. A twenty-six-year-old depressed writer asked Dear Sugar how to get out of her writing-funk. How she could write a book to be proud of. She asked: how does a woman get up and become the writer she wishes she’d be? Dear Sugar’s response is my mantra today and forever, I hope you’ll find solace in it too.

 

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug. That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do. And when people are here to do that they almost always tell us something we need to hear. I want to know what you have inside you. I want to see the contours of your second beating heart.

So write… Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

*Quotes from The Rumpus Website

The Sunken Cathedral [Book Review]

Book Reviews

I make it a point to never write negative reviews on anything. This isn’t to say that I haven’t received books to review that I haven’t liked or even products that I didn’t enjoy. It doesn’t mean that I’m afraid to share a negative opinion on a book or product, it just means that there is enough negativity in the world and I would much rather write about something I love than something I hated. That being said, sometimes I love a story, but not so much how it’s been presented, and I think it’s okay to write about it.

From the Simon & Schuster Canada Website

From the Simon & Schuster Canada Website

The Sunken Cathedral is a story with so much going on that it seemed hard for me to keep up. I felt confused by the long footnotes, which I think would have worked better if they were worked into the story. Although the writing includes a smorgasboard of vivid descriptions, to me the writing felt pulsed, broken, as if a comma or dash was inserted between each wonderful exotic thought, emotion, and description.

BUT, THE STORY. OH the story! It is wonderful, intricate, and deeply moving.

“This is the only certainty. Here: your sensations; your body existing for its moment in time. Everything else is crap.”

Love Always, 

Vanessa Xo 

*Disclosure: I received a copy of The Sunken Cathedral from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. The synopsis is from their website. Quote is from page 84 of the ARC.