Homesick Adult

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Mom answers the FaceTime call with a smile and a smirk as if she knew I’d be calling her for help. She’s holding her phone too low, all I can see is her chin and up her nose, and yet I feel cozy as a newborn being swaddled. She’s making dinner at her house, so we have to be quick. My husband runs over and grabs my phone so he can show my mom what I’m doing. I follow her instructions as she yells them out:  Throw everything into the pan. Get a beer. Get the white wine. Poor them in, more. More. In all of the corners. Grab the salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic, and dried parsley. Add them in. More Vanessa, IT’S NOT GOING TO TASTE LIKE ANYTHING IF YOU DON’T ADD ENOUGH SPICES. No, that’s not enough, keep going. Okay. Wash your hands and mix it all together. You missed a corner. Okay now try it. The JUICE that you created with the wine and beer, Vanessa. I think it needs more salt, I know I can’t taste it but I can tell. Okay. You’re good. Now get it in the oven.

I’m wearing an apron from my first part-time job. It is faded black and reaches just above my knees. Across the chest is the familiar threaded white block letters that read CARUSO with a red and white line underneath.

I have a sink full of potatoes and defrosted sausage. The mushrooms, yellow, red, and orange peppers are already chopped and sitting hazardous close to the edge of my tiny kitchen counter. Every light in our condo is on and every blind is open as if the brightness will shed some light on what I should be doing with the ingredients in front of me. I know that they can be turned into something delicious. I know that with the addition of a few spices, our 600 square foot condo can smell exactly like my parent’s house. I just don’t know how.

This is the second meal I am making in our condo and if the first one is any indication, this too will be a tasteless nightmare. I’m not sure what happened with meal one. I did everything exactly how my mother would do it. I marinated the chicken early on in the day so the juices would make the big white breasts moist and succulent. I cut and boiled the broccoli for the same amount of time as my mother would AND I even bought the same microwave-minute rice that she does. But, when we sat down to eat the meal that took me all day to create it did not taste like anything. I’ve actually belched things with more flavour.

Over the 29 years I lived with my parents, I watched my mom cook meal number 2 numerous times. I should know how to throw sausages, potatoes, peppers and mushrooms into a pan and make it taste good. But the horror from the previous night was too much to bare so, of course, I had no choice but to call my mom. Apart from taking over an hour to cook in our condo-sized-easy-bake-oven, the meal was perfect. All plates were empty, all stomachs full.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized making a delicious meal was more about creating the same environment that my mom did at home than impressing my husband or my friends. Every meal made in our condo will be more about being homesick than about adding fuel to my body.

My husband and I got married two years ago and since we had to wait for our condo to be built, we lived with my parents. There were many a thing that got on my nerves: it seemed like there was always someone around, the basement was too cold and dark to read or feel creative enough to write (honestly, where does my brain come up with this stuff?), the family dog barking all of the time, and limited privacy. By year two of living as a married woman in my parents’ basement, I was itching to get out. I counted down the days, hours, and minutes until move-in day. I was depressed when it had gotten delayed by a few months, and I found any reason I could to get out of the house.

We got very close to my parents during those two years. We had dinner with them every night and spent weekends lounging around the house with them because we had to save money. My husband would always join my parents for a nightcap and would stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking about Donald Trump, stocks, life, and whatever else came to mind. The moment we got our official move-in date, my husband and I started to feel sad. Yes, we were excited to get our own place but something just didn’t sit right. My mom helped me pack, move, and painted out entire condo over three days to ensure we would settle in quickly. She went shopping with me and spent two weeks forgetting whatever she had to do in her home to make my transition easier.

Our first weekend in the condo was easy because my husband and I were both at home. The second week, not so much. I would jolt awake every morning at 5:00 AM after my husband said goodbye and left for the day. The quiet of the condo invaded my ears; realizing that my dog wasn’t going to come to wake me up, or my mom wouldn’t be sitting in the backyard having her cigarette not only made me feel lonely but spun me into a panic.

Every. Single. Morning.

We went to my parents’ house for dinner the other night. I felt more at home there than in our condo. I felt safe. The house was filled with people and the scent of pasta sauce cooked lovingly for eight hours wafted through the house. We were only there for a few hours and we didn’t want to leave. When we got in the car and drove away we both sighed and looked at each other. I was already crying and my husband’s eyes were a little wet as well. We immediately began listing the things we missed about living with my parents:

  1. Someone was always there to talk to

  2. Family dinners (both delicious and fun)

  3. The cool dark basement that was ours

  4. Waffles – the family dog who is as cute as he is annoying

  5. My nieces – who always seem to be at my parents’ house

  6. Hanging out with my parents – learning from them, laughing with them

I, honestly, didn’t want to go home (to the condo) and the homesickness ate away at us the entire drive home. I know that there is a point where you have to be independent and grow the fuck up and I want to. I do. I just never thought I would feel this homesick. Some people, including my parents, would say that they babied us too much (my sister, brother, and husband included). Some people would say that we’re spoiled and need to cut the cord. I would agree if I didn’t feel homesick as fuck. My parents created a home that was free of judgement, full of safety, and EVEN when we were all annoyed by each other, overflowing with love. They created a home that their kids don’t want to leave and I am so thankful for that.

Apparently feeling homesick is natural, especially for those who’ve never been away from home. It just means that you miss the place you felt safe and secure. I am a basketcase full of insecurities so it only makes sense that I miss home. I cringe with slight embarrassment when I think about the cry-fest I had during that drive home. My mom keeps telling me that I’ll adjust and get used to not living with them and even though that might be true, I’ll always think of their house as my home.

Yours, 

Vanessa xo

Out of Focus

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The snow is falling without fear, without apprehension. My morning commute is becoming an hour longer than it has to be. My hands grip the wheel as my shoulders hunch up toward my ears. My mind is racing a mile a minute in spite of my car’s snail pace. The flashing break lights in front of me are no longer in focus – I force myself to blink.

If you’re like me, doing one thing at a time isn’t enough. I like to feel busy, to use my time wisely. I like to have a lot different projects on the go. Recently I have been writing for my Writing Group, trying to revamp my blog and pump out a few posts, spending loads of time on social media, looking into the job market to see what else is out there, reading whatever book I can get my hands on, and trying to purchase the necessities for our condo.

The problem is that nothing is getting finished. Everything is started and each time I go back to a new task I’m left frustrated, confused, and cannot seem to focus. I come home from work a stressed out, tired mess and spend my evenings and weekends watching Netflix or making excuses to spend time with my family just to avoid my long-winded to-do list.

Simply put, I cannot do it all. Not all at once.  As much as I’d like to re-brand and revamp my blog, I know that I won’t be able to dedicate myself to the blogging world like I did when I was in my early twenties. So, I’ve chosen to focus on writing for my Writing Group (which I hope leads to the writing of a novel) and reading. I can buy things for the condo closer to our move-in date, I will spend less time on social media, and I’ve signed up for Indeed’s emails to keep me in the loop when it comes to jobs.

It’s time to switch focus and get rid of the blur.

Yours,

Vanessa xo

*photo is a stock photo from WordPress*

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

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

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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 – 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

the unbreakable Vanessa schmidt.

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Photo Cred: Amanda DiPasquale

Yesterday Alex and I binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. I instantly fell in love with Kimmy’s character. Her happiness, determination, passion and positivity is infectious! She reminds me of a younger version of myself; specifically when I interned at Random House. When I was doing everything and anything I could get my hands on. When I was going to events, networking, and enjoying the city. Kimmy reminds me of that girl Amanda DiPasquale featured on her Everyday Beauty series so many years ago…

“She has an exuberant, uncynical view of life that is extremely rare in young people…”

“There is no FOMO for her; no desire to be at some crowded, fake event or win a popularity contest. She’s honest, and you can see no fear in her lovely almond-shaped golden eyes.

“In a Thought-Catalog world of jaded twenty-somethings, Vanessa is all, hey people, life is great – let’s take it on!”

I remember the first time I read Amanda’s post, I was all ME? That’s ME? That’s how people see me? I was blown away by the positivity and support in this post and it kept me going on the toughest of days. Now, almost four years later, I don’t recognize the girl in the photo. The girl these words were written about is practically a stranger. Was I really that fearless? Passionate? Hardworking?

I’m not sure when I began to take life so personally or why I turned my mid-twenties into a suck-fest but it has to stop. As my husband so eloquently put it “You’re unbreakable too. Stop being broken. Stop letting life get you down!”

Unbreakably yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Family Business(es)

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I’ve been surrounded by entrepreneurs and numerous men and woman who have taught me the importance of passion and a good work ethic my entire life. Many of my family and friends have inspired me to dream bigger, work harder, and continue to write lists filled with goals.

Recently two dynamic duos in my family have opened their own food related businesses and I’m using this week’s Foodie Friday to spread the word!

Core Fresh Bar

Core Fresh Bar is a company started by two of my cousins. They create, bake, and sell all natural, vegan, and gluten free treats. Their variety of treats include energy bites, cookies, granola, and the breakfast cookies. I’ve tried their  Brownie Energy Bites and Choco-Coffee cookies. Both are moist, flavorful, and the perfect snack before bed or after a workout. Learn more about Core Fresh Bar and their beliefs here. Let me know if you place an order!

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Mi Meals

Mi Meals was started by my sister and brother-in-law. They are two trained chefs who work in different restaurants but have always wanted to create their own menus and meals together. They have a passion for creating dishes that are delicious and healthy. They’ve wanted to start their own business for years and finally decided to take the plunge! Their meals are for people on the go who don’t have the time or energy to shop, prep, create, and cook their own meals. They have various options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I’ve tried them all (over the years). You can find them on Instagram – tell them I sent you! 

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Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo