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

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

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

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

 

Lena Dunham in Conversation [Event Recap]

Book Reviews, Bursting the Bubble, Toronto Adventures


IMG_0742Yesterday was the perfect Fall day, 16 degrees with beaming sunshine and a cool breeze. It was also a perfect day in general because it was finally the day of a book event I booked tickets for over a month ago. This wasn’t just any book event — LENA DUNHAM IN CONVERSATION at the Appel Salon.

I headed to the city with the same ferocious anxiety and excitement I always get when heading to events, but this time it doubled (I haven’t felt like this since I met Jowita Bydlowska). I was actually going to meet Lena Dunham. I would be able to tell her how much her book meant to me, how my writing has changed since reading it, and how much I admire her… if I could get the words out of course.

After hours of waiting (okay it was only two and my mom and I got a glass of wine so it wasn’t so bad), Lena finally arrived. With newly dyed green hair, a gray bedazzled blazer, sparkly flats, and an infectious smile, Lena took the stage and read a chapter from Not That Kind of Girl. There’s nothing more exciting than hearing words that you love spoken by the author of the book. When she finished reading, she sat down for a chat with Johanna Schneller.

IMG_0752Lena is extremely smart, confident, and funny. With poise and conviction she talked about anxiety as a mental disorder, Girls, love, her relationship with the late Nora Ephron, body image, and her reason for writing. She said that she uses writing to connect with people and feel normal, to get to know herself. When it came to discussing personal essays written by women she said that in our culture there’s something threatening about women telling their stories without remorse, and she hopes to help change that. When asked about why she leaves her writing and her book so open-ended she was humble enough to admit that she’s still growing and changing, all she wants to do was share the little bit of knowledge that she has right now.

When sitting in a room of over 500 people it’s hard to imagine that you’ll connect with a person on a stage sitting eight feet away from you. But I did. Lena spoke to all of us like we were her girlfriends, like we were sitting down in our pyjamas, eating pizza and chips, talking about the most important issues facing our culture, and not being ashamed for any of it. I felt connected to the women and men around me, some of which were probably writers too. Lena opened our minds and our hearts, leaving us in awe and in stitches.

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When the time came to get my book signed by Lena, I was shaking. Everything I practiced saying to her flew out of my head and probably landed into someone else’s. It turns out that I yapped and hand-talked for almost a minute, but Lena was sweet and compassionate. She’s either a really great actress or she was genuinely touched by how much her book meant to me (I truly believe it was the latter).

Although I “learned” a lot from Lena last night, one thing that my mind keeps repeating is:

“It’s not nice to talk shit about yourself all of the time.”

 

Vanessa Xo

Taste Canada: The Food Writing Awards [Event Recap]

Just for Fun, Products and Brands, Toronto Adventures

On Monday I attended Taste Canada’s Food Writing Awards Gala. Since I’ve never been to these awards before, my nerves ran high the entire subway ride. I got downtown faster than I anticipated so I took my time walking to the venue. Even though it was spitting and the other pedestrians were running passed me, I couldn’t help stopping for a moment to take in the sights. Toronto is beautiful even with mist, fog, and rain clouding my view. When I walked into the venue my nerves finally made way for excitement. Arcadian Court is a gorgeous space with high ceilings, crisp white walls, and breathtaking chandeliers. I grabbed myself a beer (Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA) and sat down to take everything in.

Taste Canada — The Food Writing Awards is a not-for-profit organization. Founded in 1998, it recognizes and celebrates superior writing and publishing throughout Canada’s culinary world, both English and French.

The Gala was hosted by celebrated Chef, Ricardo Larrivée. He was witty, sentimental, and an absolute treat to listen to. It’s clear that he believes in the power of making memories in the kitchen, something I’m sure all food writers can agree with. Although I enjoyed learning about new cookbooks, listening to the winners’ speeches, and watching the tribute to The Cookbook Store, the best part was the reception afterwards. It featured an open bar and several food stations to test out and enjoy. The food was prepared by culinary students from various schools who were partnered with a mentor chef.

With a glass of Samuel Adams in hand (this time OctoberFest), I tried out all of the stations I could. My taste buds relished in the house cured duck prosciutto, tagliatelle topped with willowgrove hill pork and fennel sausage ragu, maple and espelette smoked Ontario pork shoulder, and finally chocolate raspberry buttercream squares. Beer isn’t usually my go-to beverage, but I’ll definitely be reaching for one more often. Samuel Adams OctoberFest has a deep flavour that goes down smoothly. Whether salty, savoury, or sweet, it paired nicely with every dish I tried. The beer enhanced the flavour of the food rather than changing it or distracting from it. There’s even a hint of caramel in the beer that added a balance to my palate and kept me satisfied between stations.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan Courtesy of Samuel Adams

I spent my Monday night surrounded by people who love food, books, and beer – what more does a girl need? Congratulations to all of the winners and thank you for sharing your food with me. Check out the list of winners below!

Vanessa Xo

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Chan. Courtesy of Samuel Adams.

Disclosure: I was compensated for attending this event but only wrote about it due to the amazing time I had, the wonderful food I ate, and the tasty beer I drank. Also, I love anything books so this event was a MUST-attend for me!

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Winners

Culinary Narratives/Narrations Culinaires 

The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis

Les saveurs gastronomiques de la bière by David Lévesque Gendron et Martin Thibault

General Cookbooks/ Livres de Cuisine Générale

The Flavour Principle: Enticing Your Senses with Food and Drink by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol

Dans la cuisine de Danny St-Pierre by Danny St Pierre

Regional/Cultural Cookbooks

Toronto Star Cookbook: More Than 150 Diverse and Delicious Recipes Celebrating Ontario by Jennifer Bain

Single-Subject Cookbooks/Livres de Cuisine Sujet Unique

Gastro Grilling: Fired-up Recipes to Grill Great Everyday Meals by Ted Reader

Les Règles d’or des épices, recettes et récits de Ethné et Philippe de Vienne, chasseurs d’épices by Ethné et Philippe De Vienne

US by David Nicholls [Book Review]

Book Reviews

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When I asked Kaiti from HarperCollins Canada for a jaw-dropping emotional smorgasbord of a book, she sent over a copy of Us by David Nicholls. She warned me of the sadness and tenderness that this novel encompasses but I don’t think it prepared me enough for the outcome.

Douglas Peterson is the narrator of the story. He reminded me of genetics professor Don Tillman from The Rosie Project; quirky, brilliant, a little weird, and loveable beyond all measure. Us follows his journey nay, mission to keep his family together. After nearly twenty-five years of a happy marriage, Connie (his wife), turns to him one night in bed and says that she thinks she wants to leave him when their son goes off to university. Douglas does not see this coming and vows that on their last family trip across Europe he will mend his relationship with his wife and create a better relationship with his son Albie. He’s a thinker, a fighter, and in spite of his shortcomings, he loves his wife more than anything.

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)

What you endure while reading this novel is nothing short of breathtaking. Douglas’s walks down memory lane, his awkward moments with his wife and son while in Europe, and his regrettable mistakes make him the most loveable character I’ve ever encountered. He is very much himself and David Nicholls has a wonderful way of bringing his voice to life. I found myself writing all over my copy of this book. I love all kinds of love, I love family and relationships, and I love hope and change. So every single time I found a line I wanted to remember, I circled it, highlighted it, and read it aloud to my mom.

Still, as the decade drew to a close things were clearly happening, albeit elsewhere and to other people, and I quietly wondered if a change was due in my life, too, and how I might bring that about. 
(page 10 of the arc)

The fact of the matter is that life is full of changes, ones that you have control over and ones that you don’t. David Nicholls has a brilliant way of examining these changes and portraying them with brutal and loving honesty. I think anyone who has ever been in a relationship can gain something from reading Us. Even those who haven’t will undoubtedly learn something about themselves and the way that this crazy world works.

‘Why would you want to have the same experience as everyone else? Why join the herd?’
(Page 71 of the ARC)

Vanessa xo

 

Shopping Spree with Dainty Girl

Fashion & Beauty, Just for Fun, Toronto Adventures

Last week I won a shopping spree with Nicole Wilson from Dainty Girl at M for Mendocino. I entered the contest on a whim, thinking that if I won I could purchase a few new pieces for future job interviews, family events, or date nights. Considering how much I loath shopping, it was a pleasant experience. What made it easier were the suggestions from Nicole, the wonderful PR ladies who made the contest possible, and the reasonably priced clothes I got to look at and try on.

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I got to shop on my own, pulling pieces from every which way, and stacking them in my change room. I tried on a few pairs of distressed denim, they were beautiful and stretchy, so much nicer than any pair of jeans I’ve ever owned. I did pull something in my back trying to put them on though — jeans aren’t my friend. I tried on a few skirts, some gorgeous jackets, sweaters, and crop tops. Having Nicole’s opinion, as well as, the other ladies there helped me make a final decision. They know so much about clothes, what works and what doesn’t, and helped me find a few pieces that I would’ve been self-conscious about purchasing if I had been on my own.

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I settled on a beautiful red skirt, two sweaters, and the pièce de résistance, a beautiful black coat. I tried it on with a pair of their ripped denim, threw my hair up and stood in front of the mirror beaming. You know when you try on that ONE thing that you know you must have. That one piece of clothing that makes you feel beautiful, sexy, and confident? This coat did exactly that for me and thankfully it’s Dainty Girl-approved.

FullSizeRenderThank you Nicole and M for Mendocino for hosting such an amazing contest and for helping me pick out some beautiful pieces to add to my wardrobe. Thanks for a wonderful night in the city and for boosting my confidence level a little bit — I’m looking forward to strutting out the door in my new coat!

Vanessa xo