Hello February

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal
From the Reiss Blog

From the Reiss Blog

Not that I like to wish my time away but I am so happy that January is over! Good-bye to the January Blues, hello to almost Springtime, melted snow, and sunshine. In spite of the recent loss of my MacBook Air (as well as all of my photos on it), I’m feeling positive about this month and promise to sprint out of my comfort zone and create positive changes in my life.

This week I’m going to my local library to chat with the Manager of Youth Services about speaking at one of their Teen Writer’s Workshops. This is awesome for a number of reasons – firstly, I’ve never spoken to anyone about my writing in that kind of setting. I’ve always wanted to talk to teens and help them find their voice, although given that this is a Writer’s Workshop, they all have probably developed their own voice and are working on getting it heard. Also, I haven’t spoken to a group of people since… well since I had to give presentations in University. I’m excited to chat with the Manager and find out exactly what I’ll be doing/saying to these young writers. Stay tuned for more on that!

What else am I going to do this month to sprint out of my bubble? Well, I’m thinking about creative ways to present my resume online. You all know that I’m looking fiendishly for a career in publishing, the trouble is that many people are. I have to figure out a way to stand out from the crowd and I hope that this will be the month where something clicks.

I’m also going to write with the same persistence and ferocity that I did during NaNoWriMo. I’m currently working on a sequel to My Pen, My Voice and in spite of the fact that it will take me four more years to complete (you’ll understand once it’s finished), I have a lot of work to do. I also want to complete my novella entitled Demons and begin a YA novel that’s been floating around my mind for YEARS.

Finally, this month I want to connect more with people. I want to make the time to see my friends or talk to them on the phone. I want to get together with my cousins and really talk to them. I want to become a better listener, a less selfish friend, and a better human being. I think I forget how important these kinds of connections are in life and I’ve been longing for some human interaction, the kind that doesn’t involve emoticons or filters.

Welcome to February!

The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within. – William C. Bryant

Love always,

Vanessa Xo

* Quote from BrainyQuote.com

I Can See Clearly Now [Again] with @ClearlyContacts

Fashion & Beauty, Products and Brands

Three years ago I won a pair of glasses from Casie Stewart and Clearly Contacts. I wore those Derek Cardigans nearly every single day and even when my prescription changed in May of last year, I continued to wear them. The trouble is that I updated my contact lens prescription but didn’t change the lenses in my glasses, this equalled many headaches and an appalling amount of eye aches. After an intense inner-battle, I finally went over to Clearly Contacts and virtually tried on any pair that I found sale.

B7qrgqwIcAEgH1W

Within an hour I decided on the pair that I wanted, the Dakota Smith Valor Brown, and placed my order. Within a week they arrived at my doorstep! For under $70.00 I got a brand new pair of glasses with the correct prescription, scratch-free lenses, and a repair-kit to boot! Since they’re men’s frame I find the bridge width a little too big but I think if I get them tightened they should be okay. I am loving these new frames and cannot believe how good they make me feel! Change your glasses and you can change the world, that’s they say right?

unnamed

Putting on a new pair of glasses or sunglasses is a simple way to completely transform your look – just like a new hairstyle. Brad Goreski

 

Love Always, 

Vanessa Xo

*Disclosure: Although I’ve worked with Clearly Contacts in the past, they had nothing to do with this post. I searched for and purchased the glasses on my own. I wrote this post because I love their products and my new glasses.

Station Eleven [Book Review]

Book Reviews
From the HarperCollins Canada Website

From the HarperCollins Canada Website

I purchased a copy of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel just after Christmas. I had heard so many wonderful things about it and knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Station Eleven was a tough read for me, not because the plot lacked intrigue or because the characters were not relatable, but because it actually frightened me. Spanning decades, this novel tells an unparalleled eerie account of life before, during, and after an incurable, highly contagious, and deadly flu takes over the world and  collapses civilization.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Mandel tenderly and honestly depicts flaws and beauty within humanity. She discusses love, hate, fame, art, and empathy with perfect execution and wonderful dialogue. I enjoyed the different journey each character went on and I loved how their lives connected. I was blown away by how velvety smooth the story went back and forth from character to location to before the collapse and then afterwards. Mandel’s story sparks fear in her reader but also an abundance of contemplation. I thought long and hard about the importance of making the most of each moment, of memories, and of how quickly life can change. I thought a lot about what motivates human beings to do what they do and love who they love. I thought a lot about appreciation and contentment, about being less dependent on technology, and taking chances that will change the world. Mostly, I thought about life and how well Station Eleven explains every single aspect of it.

“I’m talking about these people who’ve ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed. Do you know what I mean? They’ve done what’s expected of them. They want to do something different but it’s impossible now, there’s a mortgage, kids, whatever, they’re trapped…”
— Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven)

Love Always, 

Vanessa Xo

Laptop on Rice/ Blue Monday Indeed

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal, Uncategorized

Yesterday was not a good day. I woke up feeling less than impressed with myself. I woke up feeling sweaty, ugly, and fat. Yes, it was one of THOSE Mondays. I tried to push those thoughts aside and get to the regularly scheduled programming of my brain — How much money will we need at closing? How much can I save this month? How much will we need for furniture or a wedding? Will we ever be able to afford a wedding? How is my job search going? Why haven’t I heard from anyone? So on and so forth.

unnamed

Later on that morning, I returned home from a Doctor’s appointment and spilled about half of my perfectly semi-sweet and creamy dark roast coffee all over my MacBook Air. It immediately shut off and wouldn’t turn back on. Please don’t ask me how I managed it. I am always anal when it comes to food or beverages coming in close contact with my laptop. I cleaned what I could and threw my laptop into a container with rice and although I started off hopeful, I think it is fair to say that my laptop is fried and I cannot afford a new one. The worst part of all this is that I have EVERYTHING I’ve written in the last five years is on that laptop. Every photo I’ve taken was stored on that laptop. Everything I’ve been working on lately is ON that laptop. AND I DO NOT HAVE A BACKUP! I have a USB with some of my work on it but not all of it. I always assumed I could do it eventually and eventually never came. (Also, I didn’t back up anything to iCloud – doh!).

What I care most about are my photos. I can always write more words, better words, but if my computer-genius cousin can’t get my photos back I’ll be devastated (I have photos on there from 2008 that I never developed, some from my sister’s wedding, and every photo I’ve ever taken of my niece or with my boyfriend). I don’t know how to end this post or if there’s a point in divulging the tears that I shed or the words that I screamed, so I’ll end it with this: ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE. Also, let’s hope that by some miracle my laptop starts working and all of my photos reappear.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Chaos in the Kitchen [Wild Mushroom Fettuccine]

Chaos in the Kitchen

Last time on Chaos in the Kitchen, I whipped up a delicious clam, fennel, spinach, and white bean concoction from the cookbook Weeknight Fresh & Fast by Kristine Kidd. The other night I made a simple yet incredibly gut-satisfying wild mushroom fettuccine!

unnamed

Ingredients (for two servings)

  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon (I use Portuguese olive oil)
  • Pancetta, 1 and 1/2 oz chopped
  • Large shallots, 3 diced
  • Garlic glove, 1 chopped
  • Dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Wild mushrooms (portobello, shiitake, oyster, button)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Low sodium chicken broth, 3/4 cup
  • Butter, 1 tablespoon
  • Dry fettuccine, 6 oz
  • Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup freshly grated
  • Flat-leaf parsley, chopped for sprinkling

Instructions

  • Warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until brown (about 2 minutes). Add the thyme, shallots, and garlic, cook until they start to brown (about 4 minutes). Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper to taste (put a lid on the pan if you have one, it’ll keep in the moisture). Sauté until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the chicken broth and simmer until syrupy (about 3 minutes without the lid).
  • This wasn’t in the book’s recipe but if you add a tablespoon of butter to the “syrupy sauce” it’ll thicken it a little bit and add a velvety texture as well.

unnamed-2

  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 8 minutes).
  • Drain the pasta and add it to the mushroom mixture (keep a bit of the pasta water in case you find the dish too dry once plated).
  • Stir over medium heat until pasta is completely coated.
  • Divide portions, add parsley and grated parmesan.

unnamed-1

Although it doesn’t look as good as the photo in the cookbook, I have to admit that this is one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten (and the first that I’ve made). There is so much flavour in every forkful, every mushroom has a distinct taste and when added with the pancetta, my goodness you’ve got an explosion of deliciousness in every bite.

My parents, sister, brother-in-law (who is an Exec. Sous Chef at One restaurant in Yorkville), my boyfriend, and my niece LOVED the meal and it felt satisfying to see six empty plates reach the kitchen sink. I can’t wait until the next time I get to take over the kitchen! I’ve got The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook coming my way and I’m hoping that my next recipe will come from there!

People who love to eat are always the best people!          — Julia Child

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.

0e5205743170a1d10b3a515b0c483f44

From Pinterest

 

 

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

All the Bright Places [Book Review]

Book Reviews

9780385755900

I’ve finished reading my first book of 2015 and it ripped my heart to shreds. All the Bright Places is surprisingly raw and emotional, delving into the deepest crevices of a troubled heart. Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet in the unluckiest of places where the luckiest of things happens. Standing on the bell tower of their high school, six stories above the ground, ready to jump, they save each other. Finch is obsessed with death and thinks longingly of the ways he may die, trying to find something that will make him want to stay awake. Violet is a writer, counting down the days until she can escape Indiana, as well as, her own guilt and the pain of her sister’s recent death.

This unlikely of duo pairs up for a school project where they are to discover the wonders of Indiana. Neither of them know it but from the first wonder to their vary last “wandering” together, their lives are changed completely. There’s a lovely part in the novel where Finch and Violet find one of those chalkboards where random people write what they want to do before they die. It’s in this chapter that the reader really understands who Finch and Violet are together and who they are separately. I couldn’t help but think of the things I would write on a chalkboard like that. I’d write: get published, travel to Europe, get married, make something of myself, help others, make a difference, and feel good about myself. I’d also steal some of Violet’s, “Stop being afraid. Stop thinking too much. Write. Breathe. (135)”.

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

All the Bright Places reminded me of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars but ten times as loveable and painful. As the reader gets to know the characters and follows them on the progress of their school project, they begin to fall in love with them. The fears and angst that Violet and Finch go through are extremely jarring and beautifully written. Their pain edges it’s way into your bones, streams into your heart, breaking it chapter by chapter. Don’t get me wrong, there are some lovely moments in this novel, moments beautiful enough to make your heart melt and your knees weak, but they wouldn’t mean as much to the story if it weren’t for the painful ones.

“Now all I see is someone who’s too afraid to get back out there. Everyone around you is going to give you a gentle push now and then, but never hard enough because they don’t want to upset Poor Violet. You need shoving, not pushing. You need to jump back on that camel. Otherwise you’re going to stay up on that ledge you’ve made for yourself.” (126)

All the Bright Places has the power to help you understand the horror and depression that some people experience. It’s meant to remind the reader to be strong, to be yourself, and to live every single moment to its fullest. It’s purpose is to help the reader remember their perfect days and hold onto them while creating new adventures. All the Bright Places is supposed to make you feel everything all at once, pushing you forward and up to the stars.

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of All the Bright Places from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

 

Ringing in the Resolutions

Bursting the Bubble, Lifestyle/Personal
From Pinterest

From Pinterest

As I think back on 2014 I realize that I spent most of it in a hibernating kind of contemplation. I thought instead of doing. I questioned instead of acting. I was afraid and didn’t take enough risks.

My Year in Review

  • I changed my blog multiple times and am currently looking at new themes for the new year
  • I thought about giving up blogging altogether
  • I quit my job at the pizza place and gave a half-ass attempt to freelancing, then wound up serving pizza again
  • I went on multiple interviews and learned a lot from them
  • I applied to a million jobs (am still applying on a daily basis, HELP)
  • I got a part-time job at Oxford Learning Centre
  • I had many downtown adventures and attended a few amazing events
  • I took a short fiction writing class at Ryerson and adored it
  • I started writing short stories and began submitting them to literary magazines (I even entered CBC’s Short Story Contest)
  • I wrote a novella based loosely on my Uncle’s life for NaNoWriMo
  • I started writing for Passion8 Mag, which has helped harness my creativity
  • I started cooking
  • I TURNED 25
  • I met and spoke with inspiring women thanks to Ten Thousand Coffees
  • I read 61 books and loved most of them
  • I spent loads of time with my family, my niece, my in-laws, and my friends — they’ve been my happiness this year
  • My boyfriend and I have taken our relationship to the next level (more on that another time)
  • I thought a lot about privacy and social media and how it tends to make you lose sense of yourself
  • I decided to delete my Facebook account since I only use it to creep other people

The small steps I took in 2014 were on a winding road that led me back to the beginning more than once. It was the year of ONE-STEP-FORWARD-TWO-STEPS-BACK and I’m completely dizzy from losing my footing so many times. Some days I wasn’t quite sure who I was, nor where I was headed. If I wish for anything in 2015 it would have to be clarity. I just want to know what I’m supposed to be doing. I want to feel more like myself. I want to make something of myself!

Resolutions for 2015 

  • BE PRESENT (Keep my phone in my purse.)
  • WRITE MORE POETRY AND SHORT STORIES (Who cares if no one reads them.)
  • FOCUS ON STARTING MY CAREER (Even if it what I’m doing isn’t part of the original plan.)
  • GET MY PRIVACY BACK (Social media is convenient, but privacy is unparalleled. I will share what I want, not what I think I have to.)

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
― T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year!

See you in 2015!

– Vanessa

Word of the Week [OBSEQUIOUS]

Word of the Week

This week’s word comes from the latest Flavia de Luce novel. To me, obsequious is a challenge. It is a reminder to NOT be the meaning of the word. It is a reminder to take chances, raise your voice, and do what is right for you. It is a reminder to do what you want, say what you need, and not let people walk all over you. The quote below is a wicked example of the word, one that embodies empowerment and the consequences of being an obsequious person.

unnamed

“It’s obsequious little nicety-nice girls like me who allow assholes to run the world: Miss Harlot O’Harlots, billionaire phony tree huggers, hypocrite drug-snorting, weed-puffing peace activists who fund the mass-murdering drug cartels and perpetuate crushing poverty in dirt-poor banana republics. It’s my petty fear of personal rejection that allows so many true evils to exist. My cowardice enables atrocities.”
— Chuck Palahniuk (Damned (Damned #1))

– Vanessa