You Don’t Blog Anymore (what was all of it for?)

I didn’t consciously decide to take a break from writing blog posts, it just happened. I’ve been writing a lot (well some days) thanks to my editing/writing meetings with Amanda (from Be the Next Her) but that’s for a different project. It’s not that I’ve been too busy to blog, I just haven’t felt like it. My mind is focused on other things and my time is being dispersed in very calculated ways.

And now, after an insanely eye-opening conversation with a few of my high-school besties, my time is going to be spent in even more calculated ways. As my friend so eloquently put it:

When struggling with a decision you have to ask yourself:  Is this going to help get me to where I want to be in my life? Is this going to affect my friendship/relationship positively or negatively? Is this adding value to my life?

Based on your answer to these fundamental questions, making decisions will be a helluva lot easier. The only thing left to do is figure out what I want for my life. I know that I want to work in Toronto (with a career rooted in writing and social media), I want to have honest and nurturing friendships, and I want to have a love-filled marriage based on communication and trust. Now that I’ve narrowed down what I want out of life, making decisions might be a little easier.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Featuring Montreal

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As you may have noticed from my Instagram or Twitter feed, Alex and I spent the last three days in Montreal for part two of our honeymoon.  Although I had every intention of shopping and cooking in the loft (hotel) we stayed in, we decided that it might be better if we enjoy all of the amazing food that Montreal has to offer.

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Brunch at Maison Christian Faure

After a five-hour drive all I could think about was coffee and food. We checked into our hotel and found the closest bistro. Maison Christian Faure is bright, white, and a breath of fresh air. Their cappuccino was the best I had during our trip and their club sandwich the most filling. I have to admit that Alex ordered the better dish: a ham, cheese, and mushroom croissant. The croissant was made of buttery dreams and magic (or whatever croissants are made of). It was fluffy, crunchy, and savory whereas my sandwich (although tasty) had cold chicken and hard-boiled eggs. Definitely not as magical. The sandwich did come with crispy chips and a fresh salad though.

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Alex’s ham, cheese, and mushroom croissant.
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My club sandwich

Dinner at Tapas 24

Full disclosure; since I work for Serrano Imports (an importer of Spanish cured meats and specialty items) I take any meals at Spanish Tapas restaurants very seriously.

Tapas 24 has an extensive tapas menu and loads of drinks to choose from. They have two ways to order, either you pick and choose from the menu or you give your waitress your budget and she comes up with your perfect menu. We chose the former since I can proudly list off any of the items with the correct pronunciation.

I’ve been to several Spanish restaurants in Toronto and was happy to see what Montreal had to offer. The jamon croquettes and boquerones (white anchovies) were delicious and the bread with manchego cheese divine, but the highlight of our meal was the sausage and seafood paella. The protein was cooked to perfection while the rice still had a bite to it. It was perfectly seasoned and exactly what we needed to fill us up.

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from left to right: salchichon iberico, jamon iberico, and chorizo iberico – Also, BREAD ❤

jour deux (day two)

Breakfast at Tommy

If I was a place and not a person I would be Tommy: simple, classic, and highly caffeinated. Picture white walls, high ceilings, and a leafy chandelier mixed with three floors of industrial looking chairs and tables and couches taken directly from an Anthropologie catalogue. The smell of coffee creates an intoxicating hazy smog begging any who enter to order a cup or two. Did I mention they had a mix of modern jazz and amazing oldies meant to serenade all of your troubles away?

OH! We went very simple for breakfast and munched on a Nutella brioche and croissant while downing a few strong and tasty cups of joe. I promised myself that if I ever find return to Montreal I will spend a few days sitting in Tommy, writing to my heart’s content.

Lunch at Le Magasin Général du Vieux-Montréal

On a desperate hunt for soup and salad, we stumbled into Le Magasin Général du Vieux-Montréal which is a store of awesome trinkets, as well as, a place to eat. Think exposed brick, hipster severs, and a live piano player stuffed in between crowded tables.

Unfortunately, on this cool April day in Montreal the restaurant we stumbled into didn’t have a soup of the day as the menu made us believe. So, as per usual, I settled for a club sandwich and salad. The chicken was warm and meaty, the salad and veggies utterly fresh and expertly dressed. The meal was so good that I forgot all about the soup and  the fact that I planned on taking a photo to chronicle meal deux on jour deux in Montreal.

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Dinner at Bevo

If you’re looking for a good plate of pasta, look no further than Bevo. The lasagna tasted like Nonna’s (bechamel sauce anyone?) and the gnocchi hit the spot. For me, pasta is all about the sauce and although their sauce didn’t taste like my mom’s it was definitely an authentic Italian tomato-based sauce.

I would recommend trying pizza, as that is what they’re known for. Nearly every table around us got a pizza and as I sat there and watched them eat, I had serious regrets ordering pasta. If you happen to be in the area, FedEx me a slice?

jour trois (day three)

Lunch at Montreal Poutine

The only time I ever crave fries with gravy is Thanksgiving.  We have this decade-old tradition of heading to Downey’s Farm and getting fries from the food truck on their grounds. They used to be my favourite spot for fries, until the other day when I tried Montreal Poutine.

Crispy fries, thick gravy, and creamy cheese curds – what more can you ask for on a gloomy Wednesday? Good service maybe? Well, you’re in luck because the staff at Montreal Poutine is just as wonderful as their fries! Go. Just go. You won’t regret it!

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Dinner at Joe Beef

Where do I even begin to explain the experience of dining at Joe Beef? If you’re looking for fresh ingredients, incredible service, and a completely new dining experience, Joe Beef is the place.

We only managed to squeeze in a last-minute reservation thanks to my boss: a spot at the bar at 7:00 PM on a Wednesday. I’ll admit that I was less than thrilled to be propped up at a crowded bar but now that I’ve eaten there, I wouldn’t have dined any other way.

Two minutes after being seated we were on first-name basis with every server, bartender, waiter, and busboy within reach. Each person met us with grins and firm handshakes, as if they wanted to get to know us (and everyone else sitting nearby because that is exactly how they treated each customer).

Our waiter/bartender slowly and generously went through the entire menu with us, as it’s written on a chalkboard above the bar and in French.  His knowledge was extensive and incredibly impressive. He even recommended which dishes we should try and knew which wines we would enjoy most.

We ate like pigs kings. We tried six of the appetizers before moving onto our mains. I tried things that I have never eaten in my life – like chicken liver mousse and tartare! Each dish was presented with such beauty and purpose that I couldn’t help but dig into delicacies that I never thought I would try (I’m a food lover but not a very adventurous one).

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Calamari stuffed with sausage in a lobster bisque sauce etc. etc.
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Lamb tartare and chickpeas etc. etc.
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Jambon, fresh mozzarella, and asparagus

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Alex’s main – it was demolished before I got to taste it
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Bone marrow and mashed potatoes (I WOULD GO BACK JUST FOR THIS)!!!
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Lobster spaghetti, need I say more?

Between dishes we chatted with the staff and other customers sitting beside us. We shared drinks with them, laughed with them, and enjoyed nearly three hours of food, great music, and honest conversation. I would go back to Montreal JUST for the atmosphere at Joe Beef. Every person on staff looked happy, like they were having fun, like they loved their jobs, like they were unapologetically living their best lives! Have you ever felt that way about work or witnessed anyone at work who did? I haven’t and their vibe was completely infectious.

I’m not sure if every evening at Joe Beef is as unbelievable as the evening that Alex and I shared but I like to think that they are. I like to think that every guest at Joe Beef leaves  feeling full, satisfied, and optimistic about their own future.

Thank you for everyone working that night for an evening to remember! A special shout out to Chef Marco; thank you for a meal that I’ve actually run out of adjectives trying to describe.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Thoughts from a loft in Old Montreal

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This is not a travel diary. I’m not going to tell you what to pack when you go to Montreal, or where to stay because I’m not that kind of blogger and there are LOADS of blogs about that out there. I will tell you where to eat in another post because my trips are generally remembered by what I ate, not what I wore or what I brought with me.

But I digress…

When I travel, I tend to come back a different person. Of course no trip has been able to cure my anxiety, OCD, or desire to stick to a schedule but they do open my eyes and heart to new ways of being.

Anyone who knows me (or reads my blog) knows that I struggle when it comes to making decisions. I struggle with self-confidence and I am constantly questioning who I am and what I want out of life.  I compare myself to others and just want to be liked!

As I sit here in the loft we booked months ago, with my husband asleep by my side, the one thought that keeps running through my mind is LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE. The energy, the vibe, the people in Old Montreal appear to be living their best lives. There is a happiness in the air, a calmness, a I am who I am and I ain’t sorry about it feeling. It’s addictive. I want it.

I want to wake up almost every morning and feel as though I am living up to my potential. That I am taking on new challenges and failing or succeeding with poise and grace. That’s the feeling that you get when you spend a few days in this place. Like you are obligated to do what you want in life and not be sorry for it.

Je le ferai.
Je vais vivre ma meilleure vie.

 

P.S. I also want to learn how to speak French.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – The Buccella’s go to Batch

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Last week Alex and I headed to Batch located on Victoria Street in Toronto.  Alex happened to find them after Googling best brunch in Toronto. It was a beautiful morning so we took our time and enjoyed the drive. I couldn’t help smiling when we walked into the restaurant; it was bright, clean, rustic and modern, warm and inviting. It was exactly the place I was looking for.

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Batch has a wonderful menu with loads of options plus an intense beer list for any beer-lover out there. As you know, I’m more of a coffee-drinker than a beer-drinker so I ordered a coffee. It came in the most photo-worthy cups and had a bold dark flavour.

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Me, in my happy place.
I ordered the Eggs Benedict with smoked brisket while Alex ordered the Roasted Turkey Sandwich. I’ll admit that my eggs were overcooked and I missed the messiness of a runny yolk BUT the flavour of the dish was on par. The brown butter hollandaise sauce was creamy and light while the brisket was smokey and spicy in all of the right ways. The English muffin was everything: crispy, crunchy, and soft. It came with a side of arugula salad and pickled onions which complimented each other nicely and cleansed my palate.

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Alex’s sandwich was HUGE and even tastier than my meal! The black pepper bacon and cranberry aioli made the sandwich. Everything was incredibly fresh and the bread nearly melted in your mouth. The fries were crispy but not greasy and salted to perfection.

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Did I mention that the service was amazing?  We were left alone when we were in the middle of conversation but checked up on when I needed a refill of my coffee. And our server was incredibly friendly and hilarious. If I lived closer I would definitely make a weekly reservation!

Have you been to Batch? Let me know in the comments.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Satisfaction (not) Guaranteed

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WANT NOTHING + DO ANYTHING = HAVE EVERYTHING

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’m currently reading The Happiness Equation. I’m trying to figure out how to be happy every single day. First things first – I am NOT unhappy. I am very happy. I have a good family, a wonderful husband, and a steady job. However, there are many mornings where I wake up feeling dissatisfied, where I want more, where my current job, phone, or writing is just not enough.

According to The Happiness Equation, I’m not the only one. We’ve gone from a society who was happy with what they had to a society that is always reaching for more. For society as a whole this is amazing! It’s progress! It’s evolution! It’s change! It’s technology! But as individuals, is it good to always want more? How draining is it to always feel unsatisfied?

When I got my iPhone 5SE I was in love but as soon as the 7 came come, my phone just wasn’t enough. When I self-published my first book I was completely content until 3 seconds after my book launch. That very evening I wanted to write another book but get it published by an actual publishing company this time. When I worked at Caruso’s all I wanted was a full time job and a proper paycheck. Now that I have one, I yearn to make more money, to move up, to move on.

We have a coffee, we want a second cup.

We have sex, we want to do it again.

We achieve a goal, we want to make a new one.

I am all for self-improvement, for growth, for becoming a better person, for pursuing your passions. But shouldn’t that moment of happiness, of contentment, of pride, last a little longer? Shouldn’t we relish in those feelings before we dismiss them and move on?

 

Yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – B-day Dinner at Fabbrica

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I’ve been to Fabbrica several times over the years. Alex and I went during Winterlicious in 2013 and we’ve gone back for lunch or dinner dates. My sister even hosted my niece’s Baptism there as well. It is one of my favourite restaurants for many reasons but most important is their consistency. Whenever I’ve gone there the atmosphere, food, service and even wait staff has been consistent. For me, that’s super important. It doesn’t mean the menu shouldn’t change or that the decor should be the same forever, but the customer should still be able to see the heart behind the meal in front of them.

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I am a huge fan of familiarity and feeling at home when I’m out. At Fabbrica I recognize the cooks on the line, the hostesses, and the men and women who’ve taken my order or cleared my plate. On top of that, I’ve never had a bad meal there. So when Alex said he was planning a birthday dinner for me and he booked a table at Fabbrica, I was ecstatic.

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I can always count on my sister to take photos of her food when I’m too busy! Thanks Jess ❤

We started with the charcuterie board (paper-thin cured meat for the win), warm olives, mushroom pizza (their crust is heavenly), and bread.  As my main, I ordered the ricotta gnocchi with fresh tomato, basil and burrata and a side of rapini. The gnocchi were light as air and the portion very generous. The entire table got something different and it was nice to see everyone sending over forkfuls of their dish for someone else to try. Sharing food is a beautiful thing.

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When all of the plates were licked clean and wine glasses empty, the lights dimmed and the waiter appeared with a dessert board of full of cannoli and a sundae (vanilla gelato, fried banana, butter toffee, hazelnut, strawberry, hot fudge) with a candle burning brightly on top. The cannoli tasted of lime, pistachio, and chocolate, paired with their lavazza cappuccino it was the perfect ending to a terrific meal.

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Thank you to everyone at Fabbrica for making yet another amazing meal and to my friends and family who joined me for dinner, I love you!

 

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

30 Before 30

take your businessto the next level!

After reading La Petite Noob’s 30 Before 30 List I felt inspired to create one of my own. I’ve spent the last few months adding and editing this list, curating a balance between things I’ve always wanted to do and things that I don’t want to do but should.

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Since today is my 28th birthday, I have EXACTLY 2 years to cross as many of these things off this bucket list as possible.

  1. Try Battleaxe throwing
  2. Go a WEEK without coffee
  3. Complete my manuscript and send to literary agent
  4. Travel to Europe with my Hubby
  5. Make exercising a priority (work out 3-4 day per week, min.)
  6. Try a Soul Cycle class
  7. Get an essay or fiction piece published on Hazlitt
  8. Stop buying clothes that are “too old for my age”
  9. Send more notes/birthday cards/and thank-yous via mail
  10. Have a tech-detox once a month
  11. Although appearance isn’t everything, there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. Go for regular manicure, pedicures, and haircuts.
  12. Learn how to do my makeup properly (are there Sephora workshops for this?!)
  13. BE. MORE. CONFIDENT.  (Doubt myself less)
  14. Stand up for myself (stop being so goddam accommodating)
  15. Go on a writing retreat with Buddy
  16. Learn how to be more like my mother
  17. Land/work hard for my dream job
  18. Take a cooking class
  19. Spend more time with my grandparents
  20. Take more photos and actually develop them
  21. Volunteer for a cause that means something to me
  22. Vote (since I never have)
  23. Go on a roller coaster – I’ve been terrified for years!
  24. Take another writing course
  25. EdgeWalk at the CN Tower
  26. Drink more water
  27. Make more time for friends
  28. Learn how to curl my own hair
  29. Practice Patience
  30. Write all about it

Yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – The Lockhart

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If Fred and George Weasley opened an underground bar for underage Wizards on the Hogwarts grounds, I like to think that it would look something like The Lockhart Cocktail Bar on Dundas. It’s small and dark, filled with numerous trinkets and antique-store finds. It has character and warmth. I’ve been bugging my husband to take me there since it opened and this week we finally went! We got there just after 5:00 PM so it was pretty empty, save for a few other people looking for magic after braving the cold.

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I immediately connected to their Muggle WiFi, took photos, and ordered some Harry Potter inspired cocktails and a few snacks. Alex had the Campfire Old Fashioned while I ordered the Real Tea; both drinks were tasty and made with precision. Their drink menu is amazing – the names alone will warm any Harry Potter fan’s heart.

To munch on  we ordered the herbology 101, flame roasted eggplant, and buttermilk fried horntail. What I love about trying new places in Toronto is that my taste buds are always surprised. Each tapas dish dripped with flavour, freshness, and a combination of seasonings I’ve never had before. The star dish was the fried horntail (chicken) it was sweet, savoury, and even a little tangy. I’m not quite sure what their batter is made of but it is heavenly!

I would definitely return to The Lockhart for drink and snacks (I still want to try their chocolate frogs). I would recommend it to anyone who has a love for Harry Potter, great drinks, friendly staff, and a little bit of magic…

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What a beautiful place… to be with friends. – Dobby

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Kicking Bad Habits – Adopting New Routines

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Throwing it back to NYC 2013 (coffee game strong)
The smallest things can make a world of difference. Using a blue inked pen instead of black can make a page a little brighter and even lift the spirits, an unexpected visit from a friend can make your world less bleak, a handwritten note in the mailbox can restore your faith in humanity. Paying attention to your own body, mind, and routines can induce change.

I’ve been trying to pay more attention to what my body tells me. I try to listen to my anxiety, my aches or fatigue. I try to the see the signs when I’m close to burning out, when I need a break. The body can tell you so much. I’ve had trouble falling asleep for the past few weeks. I toss and turn while I listen to my heart pounding in my chest. For once, this has nothing to do with anxiety and everything to do with the fourth of fifth coffee that I’ve had that day.

I am a coffee addict. I tried my sip of bitter-sweet and creamy coffee when I was about seventeen. I went to Cuba with my aunt, sister and cousin during March break and since that first taste, coffee and I are rarely seen apart. I drink anywhere from 3-5 coffees a day and probably even more when I’m traveling. Coffee is my vice. Some people have cigarettes, others have alcohol, I have coffee.

I’ll admit that some days, coffee leaves me feeling tired, anxious and wired. I cannot tell you how many times I get home from work and my nerves are shot from the coffee I just had to get on the way home. I also noticed that my skin is getting worse. It’s terribly dry, haggard, and the blemishes are so red and inflamed! After reading several blog posts and articles about the effects that coffee (and dairy) can have on your skin I’ve decided to cut down my coffee consumption.

That’s the first routine I’m changing. From Monday March 20th onward, I am only allowing myself one (*2 on special occasions) cup of coffee a day. I used to think that I had to start my day with a coffee, but that’s just habit, one I need to break.

The next routine I’m changing is the time in which I wake up. I normally wake up at 6:00 A.M. so that I can eat, shower, and get to work an hour early. There is absolutely no need for me to be in my desk an hour early. By 3:00 I’m an exhausted mess with zero energy and yearning for another coffee. I’m never asked to get to the office early and my bosses are big supporters of getting enough rest but I created this routune and I can’t get out of it.

I’ve decided that I’m going to set my alarm for 6:45. I’ll still have time to write, read, and eat. I’ll be able to enjoy my downtime in a quiet house. Perhaps that extra 45 minutes will rid of my fatigue and that constant burnt-out feeling. Maybe with that bit of extra sleep I’ll come home from work with enough energy to exercise and do the things I enjoy.

Finally, I’m going to add something to my daily routine.  I will write every single day. I’ll been working on a collection of short stories, narratives, and essays for ages but I haven’t given it my all. There’s even been a bit of interest from a literary agent and for some reason I keep putting it off. I think it’s time to put it back on. You cannot be a writer if you don’t write. Right?

What habits so you want to break?

Are there certain things in your routine that need to be changed? Let me know!

Routinely yours,

Vanessa xo

 

 

 

 

Foodie Friday – Fish & Chips

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The first time I had fish & chips I was eight-years-old. It was our first night at our new house and we ate on the floor in our empty dining room. I don’t remember how the meal was or if I really enjoyed it, but I do remember sitting in an unfamiliar house and still feeling a blanket of safety wash over me.

Fast forward twenty years and I find myself craving fish & chips when I need to feel comfort. I remember having it as my last meal when I interned at Random House and being super emotional afterward. I was so sad that I got Alex to pick me up at the subway and hold my hand all the way home.

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I tend to order it whenever I’m in a pub, diner, or drive-bar. Ideally, the fish should be flaky and well-seasoned. I should be able to tell that I’m eating REAL fish. The batter should be crisp, golden, and not too thick. There should be a balance of fish and batter – a ratio of one to one if you please. The fries should be thick, golden, crispy, and lightly salted. I don’t mind a bit of grease but I cannot stand when you can tell that they were fried in old oil.

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Last week for date night, Alex and I went to Fionn MacCool’s where I immediately ordered their fish & chips (if you go on a Wednesday it’s only $9.99!).   Although the white wine sangria I started off with was the star of the evening, the fish & chips were flaky and tender with batter that was crisped to perfection! I would have liked the fries to be less soggy and more crispy but the overall meal was great.

What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s your favourite pub or dive-bar? Let me know!

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo