Can I move to Italy? // Lets migrate back Varone clan

 

As we waited for our free nachos at Brazen Head Irish Pub after a rough ultimate frisbee game, we started to discuss travelling. Whether someone was describing a work trip or a vacay for pleasure, it all lead to one thing. Daydreaming about where we would rather live…in good’ol Europe.

I know, I know, my Nonnies (grandparents) moved to Canada from Naples, Italy for – you guessed it – a better life. Even though I know Canada has its perks and I’m beyond “proud to be Canadian” when I travel, I would love to move to Italy. Rome to be specific with a little villa in Sorrento or on the Amalfi Coast, either will do. Soon I came to realize that most first/second generation Canadians (around my age, so late twenties) would kill to make the move to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Whenever my Nonna (grandmother) reminisces about Naples, she gets this twinkle in her eye. My Nonno (grandfather), a sensitive man though he doesn’t look it, has a hint of sadness behind his adolescent stories. They’ve visited Italy a few times since they immigrated to Canada, but seem to have wanted to move back ever since. This isn’t to say they haven’t found happiness here in Toronto. They have three daughters and six grandchildren they love very much. But whose to say they wouldn’t go back in a heartbeat if they could. That’s their home.

I do think that travelling somewhere for a short period of time allows us to romanticize a place. The beauty is always new and refreshing even if it looks old to its inhabitants. A traveller’s eye soaks in so much more. Living somewhere new brings with it a lot of adjusting. Yet, whose to say we wouldn’t thrive in the countries our ancestors originated in though? We are accustomed to the traditions, food, drinks, a city lifestyle.

It makes me laugh to think that I’m not the only one who wishes my grandparents stayed in Italy. The lifestyle is vastly different. And I’m well aware of this, but there is something more social and raw about it. Funnily enough we’d much rather live there – despite the economic state, or lesser quality healthcare. Really, if they had never come to Canada in the first place, none of us would know any better.

What a topic for a lazy Sunday. Add it to my bucket list?

 

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Witness to a crime scene // TTC woes

As I sat reading Oliver Twist – trying to catch up to Meagan because I’m behind for our book club for two – I hear the bus driver call a young woman back to the front. Immediately after paying, she is told that she is 0.75 cents short of her fare. Our chipper bus driver goes on to ask her how much the fare is currently. She shares, “$3.25.” Now with a sternness and tone we haven’t heard yet, he explains that she just committed fraud. Explaining the charge for this, he lays it into her. Quietly, of course. So as not to draw attention to their conversation.

IMG_0008I try not to stare, or listen for that matter because reading Oliver Twist requires all of my attention.

Despite my concentration – or lack there of – I hear the driver ask her what the smallest dollar bill is that she has in her wallet. The PA system comes on and the driver inquires, “does anyone have change for a $10.00?” A kind gentleman walks straight up to the driver. Asks how much she is short, “0.75 cents” the driver replies. The stranger pays for her. She then walked toward the back of the bus, un-phased.

0.75 cents might not seem like a lot. For you or the woman who tried to cheat the TTC. But she didn’t seem very grateful for the strangers help, or generosity, either. For TTC monthly pass holders like myself, it is frustrating to know that people are getting away with paying less, or worse, not paying at all. I had just purchased my April adult pass at the time, so I’m all for cracking down on these hooligans. I had no remorse. Wouldn’t you be pissed too? Poor driver.

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Basic guide to almost winning // ultimate frisbee

Yes, that’s right. Ultimate frisbee is a real sport. There are co-ed recreational (indoor or outdoor) teams that can be created, joined and enjoyed. I, however, only semi-enjoyed it. Playing during the winter months (here in Toronto, Canada) could have been a real factor here, as to why I didn’t love the season. With games ranging from 6pm – 11pm start times, I wasn’t a happy camper that cold winter night at 10:30pm when we had to drive over. Regardless, for all you newbies out there, I’m going to provide you with a basic guide to almost winning. Seriously, we won one game, so this is truly for someone learning the basic rules of bee.

1. Come up with a unique, possibly literary inspired, team name. All the teams will instantly like you. Huckleberry Spin served us well. We even came up with our own tag line, “spin to win.” Chances were, we would lose, but we looked good doing it. I was fortunate enough to have a colleague and friend of mine, Claudio (graphic designer by day), design our sweet t’s. The best part of our Huck Spin t-shirts is that we’re going to re-use them for our Beach Volleyball (spring) and Softball (summer) teams.

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2. Ultimate is a mix between basketball and football. Sounds weird, but it is the best way for beginners to understand what the fuck is going on. Similar to basketball, you must cover your man at all times. For me, this meant running around like an idiot covering a girl who constantly tried to get open. I stopped watching the frisbee and just blocked the shit out of my counter-part. It’s like football because if you miss a pass or drop the frisbee, it automatically gets turned over to the other team wherever it lands or where you are standing. You’re welcome. This is golden information.

3. Stalls – you have to call them – and it goes up to eight. So, if you’re playing in a self-regulated/self-refereeing team (like that of Toronto Sport and Social Club), each individual is in charge of calling, “stall one, stall two, stall three…” when the man/woman they’re covering has possession of the bee. Once you reach eight, they have to turn it over to you. At first, you’ll feel dumb. Then you’ll feel like a pro and start calling “up” once they release the frisbee. Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it.

4. You need subs – don’t fool yourself – no one wants to do that much cardio. I should have mentioned that ultimate frisbee is also similar to soccer when it comes to the amount of running (without subs). Since there has to be two girls on the field at all times (that makes three men for a total of five players) – its ideal if you have 4 girls on your team. Unfortunately for us, we got off to a rough start. Heather was hit by a car and couldn’t play a single game. That left three of us ladies. Not the best. When one of us couldn’t make it that meant two girls. We played many a game – for the full duration of time. I was le tired and pissed every time the other team’s girls switched off with their subs. Jerks. Great workout though!

5. You can buy your own frisbees (as long as they meet the requirements), and that’s cool. Yet, don’t be fooled by all the pretty colours. I told our team captain, Ryan, to get blue – to match our uniforms, of course – but you’re only allowed to play with a white bee. This makes no sense if you’re playing indoor because the dome is white. We definitely found it hard to gauge where the frisbee was going to float downward as a result.

I don’t regret joining Ryan’s ultimate frisbee team. At times the best part was the great cardio work out, and owning an awesome Huck Spin t-shirt, but overall we had a great first season. I think we intimidated some people. Glad to be moving on to Beach Volleyball (outdoor), though we might freeze come May 3rd. This is Canada after all.

 

 

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The boys are back // Blue Jays Home Opener

After watching the Toronto Blue Jays versus Tampa Bay Rays series this past week I noticed a few things…and maybe you did too?

Kevin Pillar is a beast. We’ve seen him sprint across the plethora of green plenty of times. But, this time, he bolted across centre field to catch a pop-fly that seemed desperately out of reach. To everyone’s surprise – he caught it – but I mean, he really caught it. Gliding over the astroturf, over the border of gravel, Pillar sacrificed his body. He nearly slammed his face into the wall. That’s dedication. Initially I thought, whoa, it’s only the first series of the season, let alone, game two. Then, I remembered how amazing this guy is, and every little bit counts.

Our all-star third baseman, Josh Donaldson, is injured. Say it isn’t so. I just took the time to educate myself on Sportsnet  and they’re hopeful he’ll make a full recovery for tonight’s highly anticipated home opener. I didn’t realize he dealt with a calf injury most of last season too, so not only is he capable of sucking up pain, but he continues to braid his hair weirdly (ahem, playfully) underneath his ball cap. Gotta love a mohawk that’s french braided.

Marcus Stroman, on the other hand, has a beautiful smile. Yet, he tends to wear too much jewellery on the mound. Don’t get me wrong, I love Stroman. His last name is stitched on the back of my (latest) Blue Jays jersey. Killing it as starting pitcher (game 1), he knows how to control that ball. I’m thrilled to see where he’s going to take the Jays this year. Not to mention how cute his Instagram is (@mstrooo6). And yes, I follow him.

I stopped following Jose Bautista, though (@joeybats19). It seems as though he’s become full of himself. Rightfully so, he’s a home run King. For that reason, it’s not okay for Tampa to “boo” him for no good reason. Only people from Toronto can call Bautista out on his shit (a.k.a. Badtista). That slide of his into second base that cost them the last game of the series (game 3), was clearly not interference. The umpires’ call was completely diabolical. I just think it’s related to America hating Bautista. And you know what, it’s not right. At the end of the day Toronto praises him for that infamous bat flip at home-plate last season. You better be sure that he’ll do it again. Now he has the fire lit under his ass.

What does confuse me  – is  – Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion’s purpose is unclear to me at this time. With “two RBI’s in the first game of the series,” says Rhys, a Red Socks fan – I’m not on board with his batting. He seems to be sucking and I’m not entirely sure why. Hopefully he brings his A-Game to this weekends home opener series.

Troy Tulowitzki looks exactly like my friend Greg Snow. And it gets me every time. Not only does it boggle my mind, but it gets Cammie too. Have a look for yourself and you will know exactly what we mean.

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Okay, if Tulo was smiling, you’d definitely be on the same page as us.

Tonight we are gathering at a friend’s to watch the Jays home opener (being hosted down the street at Rogers Centre). I’m so excited I might burst. It’ll be the first time I wear my Stroman jersey in public! Beer in hand, you know who I’ll be cheering for.

#ComeTogether Toronto – the 2016 season has begun.

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“Strong looks better naked” // Kardashians can write too

On my 28th birthday (back in January) I never would have expected Khloe Kardashian’s latest memoir Strong Looks Better Naked to be my favourite gift. Of course, this was given to me by my mother, because who else really knows you better? Not to mention, she got me a hard cover.

IMG_9913As I continuously watch Keeping up with the Kardashians each Sunday of every season on E!, I’m very aware that some people hate these famous, iconic women (Kim especially). Even my own father makes fun of me for watching when he hears their shrill voices and contagiously-silly laughter beaming out of the TV speakers. But I don’t care. For whatever reason,  maybe because I have female cousins who I’m extremely close with or my big Italian family is very much like their Armenian American one, I can’t help but feel connected to their life events and shenanigans.

When I heard Khloe Kardashian was releasing a memoir, I couldn’t wait to read it. It could’ve been all the trashy news about her divorce with Lamar (along with his near-death experience) and my curiosity, but Khloe has always been one of my favourites from that clan. Just like all those other memoirs Meagan and I have read (Yes Please! – Amy Poehler; Not that kind of Girl – Lena Dunham; and Is Everyone Hanging out without Me? – Mindy Kaling), I was surprised at my own reactions and feelings towards Khloe’s book. When I opened up the book that birthday morning, I noticed the titles of each part. They are: Part 1 Body, Part 2 Mind, and Part 3 Heart.  Little did I know this wasn’t just a memoir, but instead, a self-help book.

Khloe goes in-depth about the years following her divorce with Lamar, which relates back to her depression, sadness and immature behaviour (acting out) after the death of her father, Bobby Kardashian. Looking back, Khloe is aware that she didn’t know how to handle her overwhelming loss(es), and she takes full responsibility for her immature actions in the past. Relying on partying and drinking to cope, her lifestyle changes are something she more than highlights. She is an advocate for being healthy (mind and body). She goes into great detail about her gym routine(s) and healthy eating choices. Making the conscious decision to be pro-active, eating right and maintaining exercise routines that she actually enjoys. Recipes of her favourite home-cooked meals are also included. Along with cocktails she makes at home – making her new spin off Cocktails with Khloe make a whole lot more sense.

IMG_9912The part that stood out the most, though, was closer to the end of the novel. Part 3 Heart. One of the chapters, titled Mindfulness, couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I had been experiencing a lot of anxiety, panic and over-thinking at the end of last year and going into this year (2016). To the point where I couldn’t just focus on the here and now. To my surprise, this is connected to being more mindful. Living in the present and not fixating on the past or worrying about the future – is a key part of mindfulness.

For some people it’s hard to appreciate the present moment, and I had become one of those people. My A-Type personality didn’t help, but through reading Khloe’s memoir I realized that you have to coax your brain into coming back and focusing on the present. This can be done by concentrating on your touch, sound and smell in any given moment. By being quiet, breathing regularly and letting your body acknolwedge that you’re safe – is another technique. Just absorbing everything that’s happening in the now. This was the biggest takeaway for me. Along with the encouragement from Khloe that going to the gym should be a daily-lifestyle change not a task on your to-do-list. If going to the gym or working out is just something you’re checking off your list, you’ll lose your focus as well as motivation. It’s important to keep in mind how great you feel even after only 20 minutes of exercise.

With plenty of personal anecdotes, positivity quotes and explanations of her own little life lessons, this book is a definite must read for anyone who is trying to reflect on their own life. I would like to think that she actually wrote this memoir. I know ghost writers exist, and she probably had most of the book transcribed, but I can’t see her publishing something that wasn’t accurate or not true to her word.

Unopposed to the overall self-help theme, I settled into reading, and I’m glad that I did. I took some hard-learned lessons along with me, and hey, there are some pretty tasty recipes in there.

“My goal is to be happy. I know there will be periods of happiness and periods of unhappiness, and like it or not, I will have to live with both. But, my goal is to live a rich, interesting, productive, generous, kind, mindful life full of love.” – Khloe Kardashian

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Spring is the Easter bunny // Long-weekend vibes

FullSizeRenderEaster long-weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. Is it just me, or are short (4-day) work weeks always the busiest? It’s as if the Friday off – and those 8-9 hours – get crammed into the other weekdays. I even hopped on my email this morning to ensure tomorrow’s deadlines are met.

Friday off was wonderful. Not only did I get to spend extra time with Emilia-Bedilia (my mother), but we stayed in and watched our favourite TV series’ together (obviously with a nice hot cup of tea). This was in preparation for the immense grocery shopping we had to do the next day for Easter Sunday.

Every Easter I forget how many Italian-Canadian traditions we really have. But, as everyone is getting older (more specifically, my cousins and I) some of these have been tweaked to better suit our growing families. I never thought as a kid that the core of our traditions (us all being together) would come to an end. Though, time and time again, I’ve come to realize that change is inevitable. It’s the only constant in life. You gotta adapt.

As I ventured over to my Nonna’s on Saturday, I walked-in on a baking frenzy. There, inside her basement kitchen – typical Italian with two kitchens in her house – she was baking traditional easter bread. Not only that, but she had lasagna’s on the way, sweet bread with sprinkles, poor man’s pie (salami & cheese), and sweetened rice pie – TIMES THREE EACH. She made one of everything for each of her daughter’s families.

Italians never go hungry and neither do the people who date them. Poor Rhys. He doesn’t know what’s coming. That’s the second constant in life. You always leave full and with leftovers.

On that note, my mom is calling me to help her wrap asparagus with bacon. I hope that each of you has a delicious long-weekend. And that the Easter bunny was good to you.

 

 

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Commuting problems // TTC

Every month (for the most part) I purchase an adult TTC pass for $141.00 (with taxes). But, if you’re experiencing the current state of the Toronto transit system, you wouldn’t know it. How could people pay this much for a system that is so archaic? I have made an effort to complain less about commuting; however, as the year’s go by, the TTC is getting worse and worse.

Just the other day, they had to shut down a huge chunk of the main subway line (Bloor/Yonge to Union) during morning rush hour. Luckily, my route went untouched, or so I thought. Instead of having enough back up buses to act as shuttle buses during these type of emergencies, they took TTC buses off their normally scheduled routes. Of course this lead to a crowd of up to 15-20 angry people at my bus stop (Route 53 to Finch) waiting for a bus that wasn’t going to come at its regular time.

Below is an account from one of my morning commutes to work. This experience has opened my eyes to how desperately we need more intersecting subway lines, how bad it must be for people who suffer from being claustrophobic, and compassionate towards those who stand their entire commute.

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To my surprise I had to stand when I got on the train at Finch this morning. Usually I don’t settle, and wait for the next train in order to get a seat, but I was running late. As was the TTC – I soon found out – it was behind schedule due to traffic again.

There I was, standing up against the wall beside the doors. I really wanted to indulge in my reading. Meg and I have jumped into Oliver Twist.

Though I am a bit under the weather with a cold, and it being my time of the month (ugh), I continued to read – not noticing how warm it started to get.

I had a toque on and my lama scarf but my lightest winter coat. As each stop approached, more people crammed in, so much so – that I no longer had any personal space.

Sounds like the norm for the TTC here in Toronto, doesn’t it?

Except this time I was stuck against the clear wall where the doors open. One stop away from where I get off, and there it was, panic setting sin. I started to get a hot flash of anxiety. Sweating now – I knew I needed to get off and ingest some fresh, cold winter air. My vision was going fuzzy, in-and-out, almost permanently black. Was I really going to faint?

Davisville is an outdoor station, and thankfully I got off there – stripped off my winter layers and sat on the cold bench.

I did not want to be one of those people who pushes the Emergency Alarm during rush hour. I refused. My nerves kicked back in once I realized I had to be brave and get back on a packed train for the duration of one more station.

Well, I did it. I had no choice. Once at work – I still felt panicky, and apparently to Paula (my co-worker) I looked green. This made sense as I felt nauseous and overwhelmed. 

The Toronto subway system is lacking on so many levels. I know it does its best, but it’s not enough. Our infrastructure is severely hurting and for people like me who are prone to anxiety and panic attacks – it’s clearly not great for my mental health.

Get your shit together TTC. We need more central lines, or more frequent trains. I  now understand why people faint on a daily basis. I will no longer judge them. That was almost me. 

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