Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Awards

Lifestyle/Personal

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The lovely Victoria Stacey of Florals and Teacups nominated me for the Sisterhood of World Bloggers Awards the other day and I’m happy to finally get around to participating. My sincerest thanks to Victoria for the nomination – you are a wonderful human being and a fantastic blogger!

“The Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award is an award that celebrates female bloggers. After being nominated by a fellow blogger, you must thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog, and answer a series of ten questions that the person who nominated you has created. Then you create ten new questions for your nominees to answer and make a list of at least ten nominees (blogs that you enjoy reading).”

  1. Describe your blog in one sentence. A memoir in motion.
  2. What is the best place you have ever travelled to? I’d have to say that it’s a tie between Vancouver and New York City. Both beautiful and full of life; I felt rejuvenated and inspired from the moment I landed.
  3. What is the weirdest food you have ever tried (either abroad or at home)? Is liver weird? I’m not too adventurous when it comes to food.
  4. If you won a free trip anywhere in the world, where would you go and with who? Europe. I’ve never been and would love to explore a few places with my fiancé on our honeymoon.
  5. If you could only blog about one specific thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose? That’s a tough one; I write about whatever I’m experiencing at a specific moment in time. To write about only one thing wouldn’t be authentic or me.
  6. Where do you hope your blog will be in the next year? I always hope that it’ll blow up and be turned into a book. THAT is my hope every single year but realistically, I just hope it’s still around and that people continue reading.
  7. Who or what inspired you to blog? One of my best friends inspired me to start this blog. She said that if I wanted my writing to really exist, I’d have to put it online.
  8. Why do you continue to blog? It gives me clarity.
  9. If you aren’t blogging, what are you doing? Writing in my notebook, spending time with my fiancé and family, reading, or painting my nails.
  10. Share your favourite blog post ever (could be your own, or someone you admire!) Most recently: The Crawl by Amanda DiPasquale

I’ll be honest the older I get, the crazier life gets, and the less time I have to follow blogs. I do have a few blogs that I visit whenever I find the time. Here are six female bloggers that I admire.

Victoria Stacey Florals and Teacups (is this allowed?) 

Megan Radisa and Meaghan Onorato The Meg Life

Amanda DiPasquale Not A Model Blog

Karen Viray The Red Bow Blog 

Lindsey Reeder Reeder Reads 

10 Questions: 

  1. Describe your blog in 140 characters.
  2. How do you hope to inspire other women with your blog?
  3. Why did you start blogging?
  4. Why do you continue to blog?
  5. What is the best meal you’ve ever cooked or eaten?
  6. What is your favourite blog post (that you’ve written or that’s been written by someone else)?
  7. What is your favourite book?
  8. If you could tell your 10-year-old self something, what would it be?
  9. Who is your fashion icon and why?
  10. Beyonce or Adele?

xoxo,

Vanessa 

The Bride’s Diary – Getting Married on A Friday

Family Time, Just for Fun

The Bride's Diary

People who get married on major holidays, Fridays, or Sundays are the freaking worst! Or at least they were until I became one of them. Here’s the thing, in order to book a Saturday night at the hall we fell in love with, w need a minimum of 200 confirmed guests. You already know that our guest list is at a firm 150 people so a Friday or Sunday would be our only options. We chose a Friday that way our guests would at least have the Saturday off to recuperate.

The only issues I have with not getting married on a Saturday is the obvious fact that not everyone we invite will be able to make it. First of all, people WORK and I would never expect anyone to take the day off. Secondly even if they decided to come to dinner (which will begin promptly at 6:30) and skip the ceremony, it might be one heck of a hassle to try to make it on time. I know that I want an intimate wedding but with such a tight guest list I am still hoping that many of them will be able to celebrate our day.

In the end,  we knew that getting married on a Friday wouldn’t be convenient for many people but for us, it works. If you’re planning your wedding and for financial/emotional/logistical reasons you decide to wed on an “unconventional” day, be prepared for a lot of eye-rolling, questions, comments, or RSVP’s with the unable to attend box checked off.

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

My First Pan Am Game, Blog to Book, and MORE

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

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Last Saturday I found myself melting in the stands of a stadium in Hamilton to watch the bronze metal men’s soccer game. It was my first work-outing and even though I didn’t entirely understand what was happening, I cheered when everyone else did and had a great time. The sweltering heat made me wonder why I decided to put on jeans that day but the fiancé’s mellow attitude and constant water/ice purchases got me through it. Side note: definitely nowhere hot for our honeymoon!!! We cannot take the heat!!

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I received some feedback on my blog-to-book manuscript from a wonderful publishing company in the U.K. There’s loads of work to do to polish my manuscript but their kind words and useful criticism has me roaring with excitement to get it done! There’s no guarantee that they’ll publish it, in fact it’s insanely rare for publishing companies to take on new authors who don’t have an agent. BUT that doesn’t mean that it’ll never happen and if I want it to happen I MUST keep trying. According to Alex all I need is a real break, someone to take a chance on me. The hardest part about that is not giving up. My goal is to have it finished by the first week of September and send it back to them then. Might need some extra motivational words my friends!

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

This weekend is going to be a busy one between Izzy’s second birthday, my aunt’s wedding, and an adventure with Alex on Monday, but I cannot wait!! Remind me to get some blogging, manuscript editing, and reading in too 😉

Wishing you sunshine, love, and uninhibited dance-parties this long weekend!

https://twitter.com/VanessGrillone/status/626509611340853248

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Learn to Live.Learn to Love

Lifestyle/Personal, Restaurant Reviews, Toronto Adventures

All you really need to do to get to know someone is to let go of all your preconceived notions of them, let go of the stories you’ve heard or told about them, and forget all of your expectations for that person. Only then can you appreciate who they are. Only then will you let them surprise you.

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The more time I spend with my fiancé the more I learn about him, the more I find myself falling in love all over again. The more we do together, the stronger our relationship becomes. Who knew he was so handy? Not me, until we had to take apart my bed and bring my entire room into the basement. Who knew he had such good fashion sense? Not me, until he encouraged me to wear a pair of fancy floral pants that I had purchased a YEAR AGO and was unsure if I could pull it off. Who knew how good he was with kids? Not me, until I saw the way he acts with my our niece.

IMG_0484We had a mini-staycation in Toronto from Sunday to Monday of this week. Although he’s not a huge fan of traffic or a bustling busy city, he knows that Toronto ignites inspiration into my bones so every so often he takes me downtown. We explored Yorkville and enjoyed the beautiful sunny day and the surprisingly quiet city.

In the afternoon we stumbled into the Andy Warhol exhibit on Bloor. Colour popped off of the walls, reminding me how bright and beautiful the world can be. Although small, the exhibit is powerful, filled with life and passion. As I took a photo with Monroe I wondered what my stamp on this world would be. Much like art, words have an immense amount of power; are mine powerful enough to stick? To evoke change? To be remembered?IMG_0477 IMG_0478 IMG_0480

People need to be made more aware of the need to work at learning how to live because life is so quick and sometimes it goes away too quickly — Andy Warhol

For dinner we headed to ONE Restaurant, where my brother-in-law just happens to be the Executive Sous Chef. With a pitcher of pimms and a great spot on the shady patio, Alex and I enjoyed one of the best meals we’ve ever had. Each dish had such different flavours and were cooked to perfection. My taste buds didn’t know what to do with themselves but I’m sure they were happy.

IMG_0502 IMG_0503 IMG_0504Overall it was another successful trip to the city! My taste buds, heart, mind, and creativity drove home nourished and ready to tackle the short (for me) work-week AND get to work on my extracurriculars. You must make time for what you love, am I right?

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Saturdays at 8 A.M.

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

Alex and I love going on drives and checking out little townships within Ontario. This weekend he had the urge to show me the cottage he went to as a child. The two-hour drive was the perfect way to start off the day. Nothing relaxes me like new scenery, a car ride, and great music.

 

With the cool breeze coming off Georgian Bay and the sun on our backs, we walked the beach and skipped rocks like children. We walked the trails and absorbed everything that is wonderful about NOT being in an office for the day.  I cannot wait for summer days in the city or long drives up at Alex’s family camper, or even exploring new townships and cities within our beautiful province.

I really wish that there were weeks made up entirely of Saturdays; the calmness in knowing that all twenty-four hours belongs to you. The wonder in what you can do with that time, the happiness in understanding that you worked hard all week and deserve some R&R.

 

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Birthday Staycation [Recap]

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Toronto Adventures

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“There’s nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.” ― Stephen Chbosky

When you spend your birthday in the city with your best friend/love of your life, exploring, laughing, eating, reading, and thinking about nothing other than the moment — your age doesn’t seem to matter. I thought that turning twenty-six would feel different, that being a little closer to thirty would make me feel old (yes, I’m crazy like that) but it doesn’t. It feels better than I thought it would, it feels like craving something for weeks and then finally getting to eat it, and it tastes just as awesome as you thought it would. That’s what twenty-six feels like to me.

So, the hotel was a little old, but we got a great deal on Expedia and it was in an amazing area — right across from Nathan Phillips Square and a stone’s throw away from all the great shops on Queen West. After a Friday spent going in and out of shops (my new favorite is Lavish and Squalor), tattoo parlours (just in case I felt brave), and eating fries from food trucks, we headed over to Bannock, an O&B restaurant. The food was delicious, well-priced, and the portions left us feeling full and satisfied. Overall, I had an amazing birthday, full of love and little surprises — I hope you had a great weekend too!

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Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

 

I don’t know about you, I’m feeling 26

Lifestyle/Personal

GUYS! Tomorrow I turn twenty-six, which will technically mark the beginning of YEAR TWO in my latest project This is Almost Thirty (more on that another time). For my birthday, Alex has planned a lovely stay-cation in Toronto, complete with dinner, a hotel, and a few hours of walking around Toronto. I cannot WAIT to be in Toronto again, I miss it. Two years ago around this time I was interning at Random House of Canada and LOVED being downtown everyday. I’d spend the hour lunch I had exploring the neighbourhood I worked, trying out coffee shops, and taking photos of all the new things I’d seen. I wrote SO much when I was working down there!

You may notice that my birthday falls on Easter weekend, which means I’ll be spending a lot of time with my family or with a book in my hand (currently reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed). I’m also hoping to plan out a YA novel I’ve been wanting to start FOREVER. I’ll be back on Monday with a weekend recap, a restaurant review, and maybe even a mantra or two!

From My Pen, My Voice

Love Always,

Vanessa Xo

Weekend Warm-Up

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

I spent my weekend babysitting my niece, hanging out with Alex, eating hearty food, reading The Girl on the Train (which was insane and intense), and driving to the city to visit my bf’s cousin. I avoided writing, blogging, and social media more than I normally do and allowed myself to refuel. That’s what weekends are for though, right? Reading, resting, and recharging. I feel ready to take on the last bit of February, work towards my writing goals, and perhaps take a much-needed risk or two…

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“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone (or with Alex) in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” ― Audrey Hepburn

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!

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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.

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  • 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.

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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

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