Sing-a-long-a Grease?! // Here come the Varone Ladies

Oftentimes when my cousins post stuff on our Facebook walls they rarely come to fruition in real life. Somehow, though, we pulled off attending Sing-a-long-a Grease at the Tiff Bell Lightbox. And I’m so glad we did.

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This cugini crew (cousins crew) started at La Carnita on 106 John Street, Toronto for some Taco lovin. What better way to warm up your vocal cords than eating guac with chips and mini tacos? Laughs come naturally to the Varone family. And once Emily joined us after work, we encouraged our Ryan Gosling look-a-like waiter to guess who the two pairs of sisters were. When we had mentioned we were all cousins, he took a step back, and could see the similarities between us. I’m always curious to know what other people think. Who looks the most like who. Needless to say, he didn’t get it right. He managed to guess one pair of sisters.

Leave it to the Varone ladies to cause some ruckus upon our arrival at Tiff. With no assigned seats, it was recommended that we arrive early in order to get seats all together. Of course we were far TOO early. A time old Varone curse. With three strangers in line already, we dropped off our stuff before heading to the washroom. Julia, walking in the wrong direction, got a talking to by the so-called “Tiff Bouncer.” So silly.

We collected our goody bags and headed inside. Snagged centre-middle-back seats, of course. Once seated the fun started immediately. A few groups came in costume and even dressed up their kids to look the part of Danny & Sandy. Our host was a comedian with no filter. For those in the audience who had never seen Grease before, ahem, one person…he went on to describe the main characters. With each explanation there was a word or phrase that we practiced screaming out loud when we saw that character on the big screen. The most memorable one was Rizzo. We were told to yell, “MISUNDERSTOOD” each time she appeared. Can’t get much more accurate than that! Randomly throughout the film, a lone yeller would scream this at the top of their lungs. The whole theatre erupted with laughter.

The host also walked us through our props. The most hilarious was the paper bag all the props came in. We were instructed to empty them, and wear them on our heads while Frenchie was serenaded with Beauty School Dropout. There was a blue balloon to be blown up and swayed like a lighter during Blue Moon at the high school dance. I’ve never been able to blow up a balloon. Not even with the encouragement of my cousins to puff out my cheeks more and exhale harder.

A little embarrassed at first to stand up and sing without the consumption of alcohol. Isabella encouraged us to get up and dance. It couldn’t have been more fun to sing-a-long to this classic. I highly recommend it for anyone in the city.

 

 

 

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Moms deserve presents too // Last minute gift ideas

Let’s be real.

Moms always deserve presents and not just on Mother’s Day. Though this is the perfect time to shower her with gifts, anytime you feel like doing something nice for someone, it should be your mom.

If you haven’t gotten anything for your mother yet, or your Nonna (grandmother) for that matter, don’t panic. I have some fool-proof gift ideas for you. All you need is a mall near you.

  1. The Candle.
    If your mom is like Emilia-Bedilia – then she’s a candle junky. But on a day like today this can be a heartfelt gift from you to her. Currently, the coveted brand Volupsa Scented Candles can be found at  Indigo  or Anthropologie and are a hot commodity. I’m currently burning my personal favorite Santiago Huckleberry (image below). It’s divine and you can smell it throughout the whole house. When these candles burn, you see a clear liquid. That’s a good thing. The ingredients are pure and it’s made with coconut wax. Fairly priced at $33.00 (CDN dollars) for the glass jar (mini versions are also available), picking out a scent that your mom will love is the best part.

    Candle 2

  2. Pandora.
    Alright, this gift idea is if you have a bit more cash at your disposal. Your mom might already have the bracelet, but if she’s like Emilia-Bedilia she is the only one in your family that doesn’t already own one. Sorry Mom. We’ve clearly neglected you on the gift front. So, I chose the black leather bracelet (single loop) for $50.00 (CDN dollars) and paired it with the sparkling palm tree charm for $50.00 (CDN dollars). She loves to travel and it’s so cute. There is a special collection for Mother’s Day, but I found it more personal to select a charm that relates to her. Again, choosing a charm that will make my mom smile, was the best part.I can’t wait to give it to her tomorrow.

    *Warning – if you are getting a bracelet it comes in a few sizes (small, medium and large). Be prepared to guesstimate your mom’s wrist size. 

  3. Quality time.
    You heard me. Free up your Sunday. Head over to your mom’s house. And treat her to some one on one time. If you’re low on funds this could cost you nothing, or a minimum of $10.00 (CDN Dollars). But, it could also cost you up to $50.00 (CDN Dollars) depending on what you decide to do together.

    Your options are endless here. For example, take Mom for a walk through the city: Distillery District, Queen Street West or East, Kensington Market or Shops at Don Mills – are all good places to start. This journey together could start with a specialty coffee once you arrive at your destination. Something to sip on while you window shop. During this walk in addition to coffee, or at the very end, you could go to a cute, local brunch/lunch/dinner place in the area. This is up to you. Just know that you can’t go wrong with spending time together.

I hope this helps all you last-minute shoppers out there. Mother’s Day is tomorrow and you owe it to your mom. Whether it’s a keepsake or a shared experience, she’ll appreciate the thought no matter what you decide. Trust me, even if you do select the wrong bracelet size, she can exchange it.

For my definition of a mom, click here. They really do come in all shapes and sizes.

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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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