Foodie Friday – Where I’ve Been

I took a break from blogging but hat doesn’t mean I took a break from eating and exploring the city (two of my favourite things). Recently I’ve been to iHalo Krunch, Sud Forno, Ricarda’s, and Baro.

After seeing black and purple ice cream on my Instagram feed for months, I decided to see if my husband would be interested in trying it. After several failed attempts (and by that I mean we refused who wait in a lineup that went to the end of the block) we finally got to hold two charcoal ice team and ice cream cones in our hands. I don’t know what I was expecting but after the first few licks a wave of disappointment flooded over me.

Yes, the ice cream was tasty, yes the photo I got was pretty rad, yes the cone had an interesting flavour BUT there was nothing special about it. The ice cream tasted like regular soft serve, the charcoal stained my teeth (which NO ONE on social media warns you about), and I could have purchased quite a few coffees for the $13.00 we spent on two cones. I’m not trying to rag on iHalo; the shop is minimalist and adorable, the staff is super friendly, and the service is quick and painless. The idea of charcoal ice cream is awesome and I understand the fascination behind it. I think I’m just bitter about being sucked into another social media trend and not getting the instant gratification I was promised.

One morning we headed to Sud Forno on Yonge for breakfast. My husband and I love having bread, sweets, Nutella, croissants, and muffins for breakfast so Sud Forno was just up our alley! This location is big, bright and beautiful. I instantly fell in love with the high ceilings with crisscrossing wooden planks, the tiled floor with various Italian wording throughout, the lush blue booths, and stunning light fixtures. From their stacked bar and hot/cold table to their freshly baked bread wall (yes you read that correctly) they have everything you need for a quick and delicious breakfast or lunch. I haven’t been to their second floor dining space but I can only imagine what beautiful Italian dishes are created up there!

Recently we tried out a Mediterranean inspired restaurant on Peter Street. Ricarda’s is another giant space with ample lighting, comfortable seating, a bar, dining area, and a lounge. They have a breakfast, dinner, lunch, jazz brunch, and tapas menu plus an extensive cocktail list AND bakery. I started my meal with a (much deserved) aperol spritz and it’s the best one I’ve had all summer.

We chose some very familiar dishes; a lemon saffron linguine with calamaretti and mushrooms, pappardelle with duck ragu, a flatbread (which was really a pizza) with mushrooms artichokes, chard, and truffle oil. I have ZERO complaints about the food, atmosphere or service. In fact, the service is what stood out most to me. There was always someone around to answer a question or show you where to find the bathroom. The staff was kind, professional, and knowledgable and they knew when to come to your table and when to give you space.

Last but certainly not least is Baro. I’ve been wanting to try out Baro since it opened and I am so glad we did. If you’re looking for a vibrant, fresh, and colourful restaurant to drown out your crappy work week, Baro is the perfect place to go to on a Friday night. The atmosphere is electric, the music on fire, and the staff super friendly.

We shared five dishes from their menu and not one disappointed! My favourite are actually not photographed; simply since they were eaten faster than I could think to pick up my phone. The fish tacos, wings, and empanadas were AMAZING! I also loved the Chori Papa (chorizo, potato, peppers, chipotle golf, and goat cheese on tortillas).

If you can only try out just one of these I would recommend Baro. It makes for a memorable night with a satisfied stomach.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

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Seeking Value

After watching a minimalism documentary on Netflix and rereading The Minimalists first book, I’ve become obsessed with the role things and people play in my life. If something or someone doesn’t add value to my life, what’s the point of keeping it around?

I’d been playing around with the idea of getting off of Instagram for almost a year but I couldn’t pinpoint why I didn’t actually need it until I thought about what it did to or for me. When I would ask people for advice they would say things like:

You’re a writer, you should definitely keep your account active (I recently got an essay published and it wasn’t because of my social media. None of my accounts were even linked to the post)

Aren’t you like a blogger? Don’t they need Instagram? (I’m a writer who happens to have a blog. I am not a interior designer, artist, fashion blogger or influencer. I don’t need Instagram.)

You spent years acquiring those followers (And? I don’t interact with any of them. If they need to get ahold of me, they can find my website OR they’ll already have my contact information.)

How will you connect with people? (I will email, call, or text. I will stay in the “know” by reading magazines, blogs, and by experiencing since I’ll have more time to do so.)

Are you crazy? (If feeling alive, unburdened, and in control for the first time in years is crazy then yes.)

I’ve been battling anxiety for a few years now and it’s become blatantly clear that some of this anxiety is due to my use of Instagram (and social media in general). I start my day scrolling through news feeds over my morning coffee, check them again several times during the day (even while driving), and spend my evenings with one hand glued to my phone. I couldn’t go to bed without one final look at Instagram.

Every so often I’ll log onto my Rogers account to see how much data my husband and I have left until our next billing cycle. Last week I noticed that we only had 3 GB to last us fourteen more days. 3 GB for some people is a lot but as my husband is always on the road for work with little to no access to wifi and my office space doesn’t have wifi, it isn’t a lot for us. Since I really didn’t need access to social media while at work I decided to turn off the cellular data for my two most used apps, Twitter and Instagram.

It didn’t take long for me to see how productive I could be at work without social media around to tempt me. I decided that I would keep the cellular data off while at work; it made me more present and exponentially more focused. On the Friday evening of that week, we went to dinner with another couple and I actually didn’t need my phone. I was fully present and took an active role in the conversations being had. Yes, I took a few photos of the food but I didn’t post them and then continue to look at my phone to see how many likes I got. When we got home that evening, I checked Instagram before bed and the more I scrolled the faster the feeling of happiness left me. The high I had from great conversation and a delicious meal was practically forgotten.

Fast forward to the next morning and I decided to delete the actual apps from my phone. This would mean no social media on my phone at ALL. I spent my Saturday actually writing, reading, talking to my parents, and playing with my nieces instead of saying I would and being glued to my phone. My mind didn’t feel as heavy or cluttered as it normally did and I was able to write a blog post, finish a book, and continue planning out my novel. It felt amazing to be doing things instead of looking at what other people were doing.

The more I thought about Instagram the more I realized that it wasn’t adding value to my life. It wasn’t helping me find a new job, it wasn’t giving me time to pursue my passion for writing, it wasn’t connecting me to people in a way provided growth or change, and it certainly wasn’t making me happy. So what was the point? That Sunday, without hesitation I quickly deleted (and not just deactivated) my Instagram account. I’d keep Twitter so that I’d still have a platform to connect with writers and share my work.

Although I know it won’t be easy, I’ll have pangs of regret surface and I may even feel like I’m missing out, I will eventually stop reaching for my cell phone for no reason. I will get used to life without feeling the pressure to post a picture or taking it personally when someone does something that I don’t have the funds to do myself. With the promise of minimal distraction I will be able to put more time and energy into the things I really enjoy and that will add the greatest amount of value to my life.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

this is my time

 

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Notebook from the Dayna Lee Collection

Call me crazy but taking a break from blogging was the best thing I’ve done this year.  Since taking a break I’ve finished a manuscript (and then chucked it out the window), began outlining a completely new project (a NOVEL),  submitted essays to a few online magazines (SHE DOES THE CITY PUBLISHED ONE about me hating everyone and everything while wedding planning), spent more time wandering around Toronto, and developed a confidence rooted in the acceptance of failure.

I owe my new-found motivation to all of the mistakes and shortcomings I’ve experienced in the last few years. I owe it to the like-minded and goal-oriented people I’ve surrounded myself with. I owe it to notebooks with powerful sentiments scribbled on their covers. I owe it to sleeping in and going out.

Most importantly I owe it to myself to use this motivation and allow it to spring me forward.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

 

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

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

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

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

Adventure is calling – his name is Alex

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 My husband and I often take separate cars when we make plans during the week since we meet up right after work. On our way home from whenever we are, Alex calls me as soon as we get in the car. We talk as I follow him home or he follows me. With our work schedules being rather different, it seems that these conversations (brought to you in part by Bluetooth), are the longest and most intense ones that we have. The only thing better would be being in the car with him.

On our way home from date-night last week the traffic was haunting; try turning onto highway 50 during rush hour and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I noticed a few cars turning down a street that I’d never traveled down before. I assumed that they were trying to avoid the traffic so I asked Alex if we should follow them. To that he said “Up to you babe.”

“Fuck it. Let’s try.” I said with a confidence that rarely makes an appearance, especially when it is really needed. On we drove. Paved roads turned into dirt ones, assumed roads lead to un-assumed ones. We came across buildings we didn’t know existed, new suburbs and abandoned farms, and a  deranged patch of land with sheds (or miniature homes) littered about. The entire way I kept asking Alex if we should keep going and to that he said “Fuck it babe, you only live once!”

After a series of steep hills and roads that wound so tightly I could barely stay on them, we ended up at a dead-end, nowhere near our home. I stopped the car and looked over at Alex sitting in his. The smile on his face was from ear to ear as he began to laugh. I immediately began to giggle.

Maybe it was the DELICIOUS white-wine sangria I had with dinner or the excitement in finding secret hidden places among the trees, but I felt sheer and utter joy. Nothing clouded my mind, I felt in control and calm and lost and safe. Life should be filled with these little adventures, where you enter into the unknown and find little pieces of yourself that you may have lost along the way.

You only live once.

Adventurously yours,

Vanessa xo