Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Don't Know Why You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

The finish line of my journey in Italy has almost arrived. It's hard to believe that I've actually been here for nine months now, and I can't believe that the hourglass is almost up. I made it. I remember how excited I was when booking my flight over here, and how nervous I was when I entered the Italian Embassy for my interview in regards to my Working Holiday Visa. I remember how strange it felt to pack, and wondering to myself how I was expected to fill my entire life with two suitcases. At that time I was young, naive, and unprepared for everything that was about to happen.
I'm not saying that I'm not still young, because I am. I'm still a month short of 19 years old, and there are a lot of life lessons I'm going to learn after I blow out my birthday candles and toss away my fake ID. I know that with every changing date comes a new opportunity in life whether it be romantically, work related, self related, or language related. You learn something new every day, and the truth is that you don't have to travel halfway across the world in order to "find" yourself. 
But that's kind of what this year has been for me. Not so much as finding myself, but more so creating myself. I've discovered that I can push boundaries, climb mountains (or ski on them), and do anything in the world if I want it badly enough. I've learned that the sky is the limit, and if you want to do something in life, for God's sake... Just do it. Your memory, sense of direction and strong legs may not last forever. There was never a single day here in Rome where I did not venture about, practice my Italian, and ask questions. Being curious is one of the best things that a person can be, and I feel that I fully took advantage of my time spent here. There are still things on my European bucket list that I haven't been able to cross off, but you know what? There were also a lot of really incredible things that I did that weren't on the list before. And besides... There's still plenty of time to do everything else. So even though I never got to go sailing in Greece or see Auschwitz in Poland, I'm still young, healthy, and have an open mind. I'll do it one day, and you better believe that whether it be two years from now or forty, it's going to happen.
It's funny, because even as I'm beginning to neatly fold my candy coloured clothes and pack away my souvenirs and novels into my suitcases, it really doesn't feel like it's really goodbye. I have grown so comfortable here that, not to be cliche, I know I will return (whether it be during a summer off from university, on my honeymoon, on a journalism assignment or for another year to simply travel and enjoy myself). I've grown not only to be comfortable in Italy, but also with the people I've met. Saying goodbye and telling everyone how thankful I am that they have been a part of my life will absolutely pose a new challenge for me, but I sincerely hope that I can continue on with some of the friendships that I've made here. Long distance isn't easy, but nothing worth it ever is. Besides... We live in a time where cell phones, Facebook and Skype make it easy to keep in touch. I suppose I'm a little more old fashioned, though. There's no greater surprise than opening up the mailbox or digging through a pile of envelopes to find a shiny new postcard or unfamiliar stamp on an envelope that covets a handwritten letter. Technology has made friendship convenient, but the post office reminds me that once upon a time, a person had to actually put thought and time into telling someone that they loved you rather than writing it on your wall.
It's hard to update you all while I'm in the midst of this new milestone in my life, but after some careful consideration, I have decided to also say goodbye to the University of Life. It's really hard to say something when you know it's going to change so much, but as the traditional break up speech goes, "It's not you... It's me." I don't feel as though it would be right to continue writing about the pursuit of happiness and the power of doing something that scares you once I arrive back in Canada. This blog wasn't intended for my adventures after Italy, and when it began, I had no idea when I would put an end to it. I also did not expect for it to become so popular, how many roommates it would break up (shout out to a friend at Guelph University), or realize how many people would faithfully follow and listen to what I had to say. But now, it feels like the right time to leave things off on a good note and let it go.
It's almost time for me to go home now, and I'm going to spend my summer reuniting with the people I love most in the world while making new memories, working, canoeing, celebrating my 19th birthday (July 6th; circle it on your calendars!), and continuing to practice my Italian. I will be publishing articles in my local paper so that I can, as my favourite Norwegian put it, "hone my craft." Hopefully dancing on the beach with good friends around a bonfire with drinks in our hands will also be involved (and if the stars align and the odds fall in my favour, then maybe even a summer romance with a certain someone from home who I kind of sort of have my eye on). 
Not only that, but I will be preparing myself for pursuing my degree in journalism in the fall. On Wednesday August 29th, my mom, sister and I are flying from Buffalo, New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a.k.a my new home for the next four years or more. I'm excited, although it hasn't quite hit me yet that I'm going to be saying arrivederci to mia familiga e amici again. 
But like Nelly Furtado said back in 2006, all good things must come to an end. However, with endings come new beginnings, and for the summer, I have some catching up to do. Look out for my second blog that will be available in late August as I detail stories from my juicy summer (which has yet to begin) and how I'm coping with saying goodbye and trying to fit my entire life into two suitcases once more. Keep your eyes peeled, or send me an e-mail at michelle.presse@hotmail.com to inquire when it will be up and running. I've already been doing some brainstorming, and I promise not to disappoint.
I want to thank everyone who I've met over the past 9 months who has changed my life in some point or another by making me think, feel, and see things in a light I never knew existed. Thank you to the people who have danced with me, the people who have ran through traffic with me, and most importantly, those who have shared their pizza with me. The support and encouragement I got from you all has been overwhelming through not just the University of Life, but through my trek as a lone traveler in beautiful Italy. This was my first real writing project and I had the time of my life sharing my journey with you. I hope you found yourself agreeing, disagreeing, and questioning your own life by reading this blog. I know I learned a thing or two.
The ride on the road untraveled has been a blast, and I'm so thankful for everyone who read my work and got lost with me along the way. I'll see you all next fall, but until then... Class is dismissed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

50 Things I Learned In Italy

One thing I really noticed while reflecting on my last few days here is that I truly got accustomed to city life. I know how to dodge pedestrians and have gotten used to waiting forever in traffic due to the millions of cars littering the streets of Rome. I got used to falling asleep to my Sicilian neighbors fighting (or perhaps they really talk like that), people laughing and cheering from the nearby bars, and the occasional roar of a police car. These sounds became my lullaby. 
But I'm not going to be in Rome anymore. I'm going to be home, where the sidewalks aren't packed with thousands of slow walking Romans pretending to be models and giddy tourists who stop in front of ten thousand people to take a photo. And the only time I have to wait on the roads is when ducks are crossing, or at a red light when a boat goes through the canal, lifting one of the three bridges that unites my city from east to west. And sleeping will be a whole new ball game. In Port Colborne, there isn't any noise. 
Power combo.
The only sounds a person can hear in the countryside are crickets and the occasional coyote that howls at night. No cars, no parties, no loud Southern Italian neighbors. Nothing! Maybe I'll have to buy one of those music boxes that only has one setting, like "ocean breeze," "rainstorm," or "wind chime garden." Perhaps they have a "Rome" box, where all it plays is noise.
The other day someone asked me where I prefer living - Italy or Canada. There's pros and cons to both countries, and every time I want to say one, the other immediately throws itself into my memory and causes me to reminisce on how much I love them, too. It's hard to say because they're both so different. The history and art attracts me to Italy, and I love that houses were built in a time where having character mattered. I almost like the weather better too, because I love the heat, but my favourite season is fall, which Rome really
We may not have buildings or history like this in
Canada, but I still love my home and native land.
misses out on. The lifestyles are polar opposites, though. I like that Italians
are more laid back to the point where they take midday naps, have a three hour lunch break with a glass of wine, and so forth. But I also feel that this poses a problem, because Italians are notoriously lazy and have no concept of time whatsoever. 
All in all, I love both countries. But Canada is my home. It's safe, affordable (minus tuition), offers a good education, health care, has a respectable reputation worldwide, has beautiful scenery, is perfect for nature lovers, and just so happens to be where I grew up. We also have an endless supply of maple syrup. I love Canada. I don't think that I ever see myself 
Beautiful Tuscany.
settling down in Italy forever, but it would be nice to go back for another extended period of time. I think it would be great when I'm older to rent a country home in Tuscany for a year or so to focus on writing and spend my days practicing Italian, learning how to be a better cook, riding my bike through the vineyards, and reading every book a person would ever want to read in their lifetime.
The problem with actually immigrating to Italy is that I don't trust the government and that the economy is forever screwed. But what bothers me the most is being so far away from my family. Even though not everyone in my family lives close to Port Colborne, we're still close. We call each other, spend holidays together, and try our best to see each other as often as possible. I want my future children to have the same kind of relationships that I had with my own cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, but growing up halfway across the world would make that extremely difficult.
50
And let's face it - airline prices are continuing to soar higher than the planes themselves.
In honour of my last week here in Italy, I decided to compile a list of just 50 things I learned while here that are too good to keep to myself. I learned a lot from my time here and will continue to continue learning during the next seven days and beyond, but I thought it would be something for you all to think about. I hope you laugh, agree, and take something from this list. Enjoy!
1. When an Italian grandmother (nonna) asks you if you want more food, the answer is never "no," even if you feel like your stomach is about to burst open. You will a) completely offend the woman and b) she will just put more food on your plate anyway.
2. The most important Italian saying is "mange bene," which literally translates to "eat good." This is said when reminding one to have good table manners, but also to finish everything laid out in front of you.
3. 15 degree temperature is still considered fur coat weather in Italy.
4. Time really does fly when you're having fun.
5. If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.
6. When one door closes, another door opens.
7. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.
8. Spritz is the best summer drink (with aperol - not Campari!)
9. Canadian men are wonderful. They don't pluck their eyebrows, wear tacky leather pants or harass women on the street. They are casual, polite, and know how to respect women (well, most of them, at least).
10. Canadians don't ride their bikes nearly as much as we should.
11. Although I'm not a fan of Stephen Harper, I'm proud that he's kept our economy relatively strong, hasn't constructed business with the mafia, or been the host of any bunga bunga parties. At least I don't think he has...
12. Don't judge anyone based on what they were like in high school. Chances are, they've changed drastically since then. Haven't you?
13. The best roads to take are the ones untraveled.
14. Never take the night bus. Ever.
15. Bad parenting results in badly behaved children.
16. Walking on the sidewalk does not necessarily mean that you won't be hit by a car.
17. Some people take soccer way too seriously (Lazio fans, you know I'm talking about you).
18. The best pubs in the world are the ones with an Irish flag waving outside.
19. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is the best book in the entire world.
20. Do what makes you happy.
21. The sexiest accent in the entire world belongs to the British.
22. If someone is rude to you, don't strike back. It's not worth your time or energy.
23. You see one's true colours upon dealing with a rainy day, tangled Christmas tree lights, and lost luggage.
24. Stealing fresh figs and lemons from gardens in Tuscany at midnight makes for great memories in the morning.
25. Pick your battles 
26. Overuse "I love you." You never know when it'll be the last time you say it to someone.
27. There is nothing wrong with spending a day in a patch of sunlight reading your favourite book by your favourite fountain in your favourite garden.
28. Don't let fear get in the way of a life experience.
29. Danish people have the biggest hearts in the world.
30. Always trust your intuition. It could save your life.
31. Don't worry about pleasing everyone. When you want to say "no" instead of "yes", do it.
32. Always set the bar higher than you thought you could jump.
33. 99% of people need to use olive oil more regularly.
34. Nutella is what heaven tastes like.
35. There is no turmoil that can't be lightened when eating pizza margarita.
36. Getting mail (you know - in the mailbox) is much better than getting an e-mail.
37. You cannot cross the same river twice.
38. The Catholic religion is even more controversial than one could think.
39. Saying, "It's my birthday!" to bartenders and waiters pays off. It's just a white lie - eventually it will be my birthday.
Looks perfectly fine to me.
40. Food tastes better when you aren't eating it while watching TV.
41. Canada really needs a cheap airline like Ryanair or EasyJet. Entrepreneurs? Anyone? Eh?
42. Amsterdam is the coolest city on the face of the earth.
43. No matter what kind of relationship you have with your parents, you'll miss them when you move out.
44. It's never a good idea to marry for money. Maybe this one is obvious, but I was smacked in the face with this reality on several occasions in Italy.
45. Rooftops are a perfectly comfortable place to sleep.
46. Keep your money in your front pockets.
47. Never underestimate the level of coolness in an Irish priest.
48. Always, always, always be yourself. You can't please everyone, so you might as well just do what you want in life.
49. Never trust a man in leather pants, unless his name is Ricky Martin.
50. In Rome, do as the Romans do.
51. (One more, just for good luck): Home is where the heart is.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pompei & Naples

Oh, what a weekend I've had... On Saturday morning, my sister and I went to the main train station in Rome and went to Napoli, which was a two hour ride just south of Rome. We immediately went to the ticket station in order to catch the bus to Pompei, which is where we had planned to tour the ancient ruins. The weather was absolutely beautiful - almost 30 degrees with sun, sun, sun, making the emergency umbrella in my purse a menace. We met this nice American couple who were on vacation in Italy, and Pompei was their last stop before flying back to Iowa from the Fiumincino airport. We struck up a conversation with them, and luckily for us, they took Nicole and I under their wing and we all stuck together. If it weren't for them, navigating 
Nicole in the ruins.
around the trains and booths would have been much more stressful. It was also more comforting knowing that it looked like we were traveling with "mom and dad" instead of just as a pair.
Now... A lot of people say that my sister and I look like twins, while other people say we look nothing alike. It's kind of funny how people see us differently, but even though our faces have the same features and characteristics, our colouring is different. She has dark brown hair, I have blonde hair. She has naturally tanned skin, I have pale skin. She has hazel eyes, and I have blue eyes. Case in point: she can pass for an Italian, while I can only pass for a Scandinavian. She could go anywhere in Italy and kind of pass for a local, but 
Sleeping on a bed that just so happened to
be part of the world's first brothel... Oops!
Naples is a grand exception. In Naples, people can tell with a two second eye glance on whether or not you were raised in the city that presented the world with pizza and gelato. But I'll tell you more about Naples later, because we didn't really see the city until after our trip to Pompei that was a half hour train ride away.
Pompei was a resort town in the Roman Empire, located just a half hour south of Naples on the western coast of Italy. Many wealthy Romans at the time had "country homes" there, which they visited during their time off and especially during the summers, where Rome was to hot to bear with its crowds of people. In its prime, the city of Pompei had a population of nearly 20,000 people. Unfortunately, this part of Italy happens to be a highly active volcanic area, and August 24, 79 A.D proved it so. The entire city was buried by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. While most people fled the eruption immediately, approximately 2,000 people opted to stay and were buried in the eruption along with the city. Most people died from a blast of poisonous gasses. The eruption lasted for nearly a day, the end result being Pompei buried under some 25 feet
Pompei
of volcanic material, and Herculaneum (Pompei's neighbor to the north) with as much as 65 feet. After the eruption, the only savings from these two cities came from the memories of those who once summered there. Both Pompei and Herculaneum remained undiscovered until the 1700's, although it wasn't until the mid 1800's that careful recording of discoveries began. The lapilli and ash had done an amazing job of preserving the city, allowing people to visit and explore the ruins today. Ruins in which rocks still lay about where tourists can pick them up and discreetly put them in their purses to take home as souvenirs (Neither of us did that, by the way. Wink wink).
We spent approximately three hours inside, and when it was time to go, we met these two Canadian guys who were also waiting for the train back to Naples. They happened to be from Brampton, a city that is just an hour away from our hometown, proving the whole "it's a small world after all" theory to be true
When we arrived back to the train station, we agreed to walk around for a bit and experience real Neapolitan pizza, something that my taste buds were begging me to do.
This is the thing about pizza from Naples... It's the best you will ever have in your entire life. Period. There is no place in the world but this, and no pizzeria that comes from outside of this city that can make a more delicious pie. Then there's the famous pizzeria Da Michele, which is quite possibly the most famous pizzeria in the world. As heartbreaking as it is, the shop is closed on Saturday's, so we did not get to experience the pizza that had Elizabeth Gilbert in tears and that Oprah Winfrey bragged about forever. You must understand in order to truly grasp the importance of the pizza in Naples is that it was invented there, so even history tells us that they're doing it right.
Naples
The reasons vary as to why Neapolitan pizza is so delicious, and I have narrowed down the top five reasons as to why it can't be beat.
1. The history.
2. The secret recipes that have been passed down to each generation.
3. The tradition of Italian food itself, and taking time to make something the right way.
4. The coffin wood that fuels the burning ovens.
5. The fresh ingredients.
Nicole, the two Canadians guys and I walked just outside of the train station for a bit, where we gained a true sense of the city. Being there made me so thankful that I had chosen Rome as my humble abode for the past year, and thank God. Naples is crazy, loud, dirty, and dangerous. Even more so
than Rome, which I'm now quite comfortable with. I remember having a conversation with one of my neighbours who once explained to me that her and her family originally came from Naples, but that they had moved to Rome because it was safer. Rome is not actually considered a safe city, so the fact that they had chosen the Eternal City as their haven speaks great measures about the condition of Naples. There were cars roaring, beeping, honking and running each other over this way and that. Men were staring and making comments, and garbage had completely littered the sidewalks. Ladies - if you want to visit Naples, please do not go looking like a tourist, and bring a couple of your male friends along.
Yesterday was the communion of Giulia, the girl who I first au paired for when coming to Italy. She's turning 10 this upcoming August, and coming from a traditional Roman Catholic family, it was only given that she would have communion. Both my sister and I went to the church where Nicole met my old family, who still happens to be the kindest group of people that I know. I feel so lucky to have had two such wonderful families, and know that when I do come back to Rome, I'll have friendly faces there to welcome me back. We spent part of the afternoon at an outdoor bar eating finger foods, and I plan to visit the Masi household again before returning back to Canada.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Experience At The Opera


Today, my job required me to accompany my nine year old on a school field trip to a little place called the opera! It's something that everyone should do when in Italy for an extended period of
time, and was certainly an experience that I will never forget. Unfortunately for most people, the opera has a price tag that is too high, robbing them of something so wonderful and traditionally Italian that it is often an experience too expensive. But since I technically went for "work", my boss actually paid for me to go. And let me just say - it was so good, that I would have probably forked out the money myself even if it wasn't free.
The opera house we went to is located close to via Nazionale, a notorious street in Rome. It had a red carpet outside that led to the beautiful theatre that was decorated with red velvet and gold details. There were floor seats, two public balconies, and a series of private balconies for the super rich and privileged. A grand piano was sectioned off in the corner, and a massive stage with blonde wood
The most fun thing. Ever.
that stood proudly at the front. The opera lasted for approximately two hours, and was based on Mozart's famous ballads. I was pleased with myself for being able to recognize some of the songs, thanks to my host mom who likes to play classical music through our floor (by "our" foor I mean the second living room/library, the parents bedroom, and mine). I also got to see the house where Mozart was born during my Christmas trip in Salzburg, so the opera for me was very special.
The people in the opera were so beautiful and wore the most intricate layered clothes that I've seen in a long time, and it inspired me to make sure I do something when I get home... Root through ye ol' dress up trunk! When I was younger, one of my 
Exhibit A: Itsy bitsy green bikini, purple
beads, beret and cowboy boots. The
usual things you'll find in my closet.
favourite things to do after school and during the summertime was to run over to my friend Shayna's house with my sister Nicole and explore through her many dress up boxes that were stored in her mom's art studio. The three of us would try on all the crazy outfits that came from only God knows where, and made scenarios and created plays. Our most famous "play" was called Murder On Vimy Road (the name of our street), that was a chilling play about... well... a murder on our street that was plotted in order to seek revenge on the most beautiful daughter in the Cornellius household. Most of our creations were recorded on our video camera, which means that unfortunately for me, I have a lot to fear for when my wedding day comes and my parents reveal to my husband, in laws and friends what a wild child I truly was. I remember specifically one of me dancing around half naked wearing nothing but a orange fringed skirt singing a song that was once on a cereal commercial... Oh God.
Anyway, Nicole and I were inspired (and jealous) of Shayna's treasures of vintage clothing, so we began our own dress up box. One box became two, and two became three, and now we have a large collection of funky clothing that used to be my mom's clothes (some dating as far back to the 70's), bought from thrift stores, and even our own old clothes. The trunks are now filled with fun vests, big skirts, and just about anything that you 
could imagine in a dress up box. Black dresses with fishnet arms, long white gloves, tops with way too many sequins, crazy hats, corsets (a proud purchase of mine that I spent a whole $10 
Mount Vesuvius from Naples.
on after negotiating with one of the salesmen at a vintage shop), and scarfs. But some of the clothes in there that were just for fun are actually cool now.
Of course I'm not going to start a new trend of wearing the white silk gloves that look like the ones Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but if I piece things right and use my scissors wisely, I think I might find some new things to add to my wardrobe without having to spend any money. I've been talking quite a bit with my soon-to-be roommate Becca about things we both want to do in Halifax. She told me she loves vintage clothing, and that she'd love to dig through some vintage stores in the city. I'm so excited, because everyone knows that people who love vintage are effortlessly cool, and have a good eye for the fine things in life.
Tonight my sister is coming over to watch Erin Brockovich on the big screen upstairs, and then tomorrow we're taking off to the train station to spend the morning in Naples, and the afternoon in Pompei. We really want to take the train to Pompei, but in order to get there, we first have to stop in Naples. You know that saying, "All roads lead to Rome"? Not true. Because Pompei doesn't.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ABC's Of Living A Good Life

Make mistakes, get
messy, and be happy.
The weather forecast in Rome has not been optimistic for this week. It's been grey and rainy since Sunday, which is not something I signed up for when coming to Italy. I can deal with it since it's still warm out and I'm not letting it ruin my last few moments here, and when life gives you lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade... Right? 
It's supposed to rain until at least Thursday, but since I have a pair of stylish rain boots and a cool umbrella, it gives me an excuse to pad around the city (not to mention I was also in the mood for pizza). I walked into my favourite pizzeria with a huge smile on my face because, well, I love pizza, and I was about to order a very generous slice. The Pauly D lookalike was there, which was wonderful, because he always gives me more pizza than I actually ask for and gives me a deal. What's not to like? He doesn't speak any Inglese, but I understood a comment he made in his southern Italian accent (he's from Paleremo). "You're always so happy!" he said. Well... That was a compliment! I like to believe that I'm an optimist and fairly happy person, and the fact that the pizza guy on the corner of my street recognized that made me stop and think for a minute.
It's a lot easier to be happy than it is to be sad, and it's a lot better to love your life than to wake 
up every morning and not see the silver lining in every cloud. There's always something you can do in your life to make it a little brighter, so I thought it would be fun to make my own ABC's of living a good life. Anything listed below is something that everyone can do, and I promise that even if you only pick a couple letter's to try, it'll make your day a whole lot better.
A: Al fresco. Dining outside allows you to let go of all distractions, enjoy your meal, and appreciate nature.
B: Bubble baths. One of my favourite things to do after a long day is to unwind by running a hot bath filled with bubbles completed with scented candles and a few pieces of dark chocolate.
Gelato - a pure staple of happiness in my life.
C: Cupcakes. Cookies. Cake. Baking is fun, and eating is even more fun. Treat yourself every now and then to something delicious (and go ahead - lick the frosting off the spoon once you're done).
D: Dogs. They'll never judge you, and will love you unconditionally (as long as you scratch their bellies and sneak them something off your plate). Everyone should have a four legged friend to greet them when coming home.
E: Ellen Degeneres. Her show is funny, informative, and never fails to make you think. The dance moves are a bonus.
F: Flowers. The way they smell, the way they look, the way you feel when someone gives them 
Cinque Terre, Italy.
to you... You don't need to have a bad day in order to deserve them. Pick some up from the grocery store or pick your own from a garden and put them somewhere where you'll pass by them. Just because.
G: Gelato. This creamy goodness comes in a million textures, flavours and colours is praised and licked on every street corner in Italy.
H: Heart. Have a lot of it, be sympathetic, and love, love, love.
I: ITALY! Even if you can't make a trip over yourself, do little things that can help you get one step closer to living la dolce vita. Take a 20 minute power nap in the middle of your day. Have a glass of wine with your lunch. And don't eat cheese that comes in plastic wrapping, damn it - go to a specialty formaggio shop. Worth the splurge.
J: Jog. When you least feel like moving is when you should move the most. I know that when I feel lazy and tired, a jog is just the thing I need to perk up.
K: Karma. Don't worry about seeking revenge on anyone - karma is a bigger bitch than you ever could be.
L: Lingerie. The worst thing about this touchy (no pun intended) subject is that it only seems to be worn during special occasions (i.e Valentine's Day, birthdays, Christmas). Ditch the fading ivory bra with the ginormous straps and take yourself to the nearest boutique (or Victoria's Secret) ASAP. There's no better pick-me-up then wearing a conservative outfit that's hiding a lacy, silky, risqué bra and thong set underneath. How else did you people think I was able to stand that Catholic uniform for four years straight?
M: Massages. Ok, this one is a no brainer. Even if you can't afford to go to a professional 
masseuse, it's worth asking your boyfriend/girlfriend/friend to caress your shoulders or rub your back for a little while. And if you're alone, even rubbing your own temples is a good way to calm down.
N: Nutella. It's a guilt free way to enjoy chocolate with a hint of hazelnut. Also, the Italians invented it, which means that you know it doesn't disappoint.
O: Orgasms. Enough said.
P: Perfume. It's just nice, but not in the same way that a pair of cashmere gloves on a cold day is nice. Even on a jeans and T shirt day, perfume allows you to feel a little more classy, fun, whatever. My favourites include Jean Gauthier's Madame, Chanel's Chance and Vera Wang's Princess. Just please don't wear them all at once.
Q: Quiet time. Everyone needs it at some point in their day.
R: Reading. There is nothing more wonderful in life than curling up and getting lost in a good book.
S: Sun. Even though it hasn't made an appearance in Rome for the past few days, when its sunny out, take advantage of the weather. A friend of mine once told me about a study she read about how weather affects people's moods, and that people who 
live in Seattle are the most miserable on a daily basis (in the United States, at least) due to it's annual rainfall.
T: Tea. A cup before bed is the perfect way to relax and get a good night's sleep.
U: University of Life! Seriously - do my posts ever depress you?!
V: Vino. Doctors say a glass of red wine per day is good for the heart.
W: Wedding dresses. Call me crazy, but there's something so special about passing a Wedding Dress Shoppe and losing yourself in the ballgown styled Pnina Tornai with a buttoned corset backing, sweetheart neckline, and diamond encrusted top. Eye candy is calorie free.
X: Xylophone. Sure, there are limited words that begin with the letter X, but let me explain what I really mean here - jazz music. It's sexy and soothing and gets you in the mood, and when I'm older and have my own place, I can assure you it will be played on the iPod speakers and flood my house every night.
Y: Yoga. You don't have to travel to India or have your own meditation room to feel good vibes. Rolling out a yoga mat in any open space in your home is good enough. And if all you know how to do is the downward dog or child's pose? That's ok!
Z: Zumba. It's a fun and easy way to get in shape. Even if you're not "good" at it, that's ok. Whatever gets your heart pumping is a good workout. Don't worry about looking like an idiot, because we've all been there.
Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day. Even if that good thing is a simple cup of tea or a cupcake. Pay attention to the good things in life and celebrate them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The 5 Friends Every Woman Should Have

Could they be any funnier?
I consider myself to be a fairly lucky person, because I have a wide circle of friends whom I adore more than anything in the world. I have friends of all nationalities, races, and personalities, and I know how fortunate I am to have them in my life. I don't know what I would do or who I would be without them.
All friendships have their ups and downs. Some friendships last for a couple seasons, some last for a few years, and some last a lifetime. Some still love you even after you accidentally break their mom's favourite lamp, while other's flee when times get tough. I think its only natural for people to have friends in their life come and go, but it always stings when a friendship is over. Most of the time, it happens over the course of a person's life, rather than an argument. But when a friendship does end over
Too true.
something serious, it can be really difficult to get over. Bob Marley once said, "Truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just have to find the ones worth suffering for." I don't feel that its necessary for me to dig up old bones and give you examples in my own life where friends have hurt my own feelings or crossed boundaries, but hold onto what I say: appreciate the people you love in your life, and make sure they know it. 
It sounds simple, but tell your friends you love them. When you do something wrong that hurts their feelings or insults their character, apologize. It can be hard, but anyone reading my blog is old enough to know that the things that matter in life are usually never easy.
In high school, I couldn't see past the next semester. I was too young to think seriously about my future, and I was oblivious enough to think that the people I ate lunch with at the cafeteria every day would be the same people I'd be inviting to my wedding. I have a close handful of people who I have and will be friends with until the day I die, but there's a lot of people I was friends with in high school who I never in a million years would've thought that I wouldn't talk to after graduating. But, of course, it happened. And the funny thing is that I can't even tell you why,
because one year later, I still have no idea. I'm not sad about it anymore, and I'll probably never get an answer or apology, but before you ask someone why they don't like you, ask yourself first why you should even care.
I know that deep down I'm a loyal, honest, and truth worthy friend. Have I always been? No. Will I always be in the future? All I can say is that I will sincerely try my best. But if you happen to be the one who needs to apologize in order to begin rebuilding the bridge, then do it. It's never too late to come out and say "I'm sorry." If you miss someone you used to be close with, pick up the phone and call them. It's never too late.
Thinking about how fortunate I am to have the friends I have in my life encouraged me to write this post and list the five types of people that I believe every woman needs to have in her life. 
The Party Girl:
Every woman needs a friend like this in their life. She's the one who, even at your craziest, makes you look sane compared to herself. She's fun, she's flirty, and she's the one who will motivate you to get out of your sweats and off the couch after calling you to invite you out to the bar this weekend. When you get dumped, she's the one who will refuse to let you wallow in a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream with a side of sadness by going shopping with you for a hot new dress and take you out and volunteer you to do body shots at the bar (cough cough... Emily Kalynuik). She's the one who will make sure you have a good time, no matter how shitty you're feeling. It's important to have a friend like this in your life who you can totally let lose with and not worry about anything but having a good time. It's always depressing when The Party Girl gets a boyfriend, because it means that she can no longer be your wing woman or take the ugly one on a double date. But before you sweat it, don't worry - she usually doesn't stay in a relationship for long, which means that when her and her boyfriend do break up, there will be even more partying than ever before. Cheers to her!
The Cheerleader:
When I say cheerleader, I don't actually mean that this kind of friend needs to know how to do 
And then there's these kind of people...
the splits or have an excessive amount of school spirit. This friend can also be known as The Motivator, or basically, the one who always wants you to succeed. I know what you're thinking - shouldn't every friend I have want me to succeed? Of course, but The Cheerleader is different. This isn't the friend who simply texts you good luck before a basketball game, but the one who will actually be there to watch you while wearing your team colours or an extra jersey. Upon hearing that you want to get in shape by taking a zumba class she doesn't just say, "Good for you," but she will actually volunteer to join you and make it a ritual to go for a morning jog together every Sunday. And when you have a major test coming up, she's the friend who will help you study in your dorm room with colour coded flash cards. She's the one who sees you at your best and at your worst, and stays by your side no matter what kind of day you're having. She's awesome.
The Honest One:
Ahh, the honest one... This friend is the one who is always honest with you, even if it hurts your feelings. This friend will tell you the truth to the worst questions that brew in the back of your mind such as, Do you think I can trust him? and the age old, Does this dress make me look fat? No, you can't trust him, and yes, that dress does kind of make you look like you've been stuffing your face with doughnuts for the past week. She's logical, and you can tell her anything, because you know that she's going to serve up a hot dish of honesty and fill your plate with it. Sorry. That was a weird thing to say, even for me.
The One You've Known Forever:
This is the kind of friend who you'll never be able to get rid of, even if you wanted to. She might 
be your sister, or maybe you met in kindergarten. Whatever the relation, you've known her since you had braces, and she isn't going anywhere. The nice thing about this friend is that one minute you could be engaged in a heated argument, and the next, you're going to the movies together. Even if you get into a fight that lasts longer than a week, when something goes wrong, you know that you can call her anyway, and she'll talk to you as though the fight never happened. She's always there for you no matter what, because there's no point in trying to break away from this friendship - there's too many embarrassing pictures of you
Upon hearing that your favourite pizza
topping is olives while his is pepperoni...
together in your diapers to throw all your memories away (even if she does happen to listen to Nickelback or thinks that Harry Potter is overrated).
The Boy:
This is one of my favourites in the entire list, because this kind of friend is unlike any other. The Boy is great for a lot of reasons, the main being that your biggest fight will be over what pizza toppings you should get. When you want to hangout and do nothing, he's all for it. One of the best things about The Boy is that you can hangout with him without any drama. You'll never have to hear him complain about how mad he is at Starbucks for introducing a new triple-mocha-caramel-latte-thing and how rude they are for being so appealing that it's ruining his diet, and you'll never hear the words, "OhmyGod, guess who just broke up?!" come from his mouth. The Boy is refreshing, and a nice break away from girl world. A huge bonus about The Boy is that he is most likely friends with other boys whose interests include lacrosse, looking delicious, and long walks on the beach.
All of these friends, despite their most notable titles, should have all of these other qualities as well. It's important to be well rounded and be able to be there for your friend in their time of sadness even if all you want to do is channel your inner Ke$ha. Every friend should be fun, cheer you on when you want to do something important, let you cry on their shoulder, and make you laugh when you need it the most. This post is for all of the friends who are in my life today (you know who you are!), and a tribute to the ones I have yet to meet. You're never too old or too busy to make new friends, and you're never wrong to rekindle the friendships you used to have.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oh, The Places You'll Go

Critics: Everyone gets 'em.
I don't always get positive feedback on my blog. Occasionally, there is the odd person who anonymously writes me saying that my work is crap and that I should give up on my career before I even start it. I've also been told that my blog is "poorly written and insulting." Well then! I guess you really do need thick skin to be a writer. Just to clear some things up, I love what I do, and I think I'm good at it. Obviously you people do too, otherwise you wouldn't read it anymore. But allow me to let you in on a little secret...
I started this blog for my family and friends to conveniently update them all at the same time on my adventures in Italy. It was also for my own pure enjoyment, and to craft my skills as a
writer. I ended up getting much more viewers than originally expected, and a lot more praise than I ever though I deserved. I have to admit that there are some things I've wrote on this blog that I thought was pushing the envelope and have regretted, but I've learned my lessons. And if you think one person's negative comment is going to make me stop doing what I love? Think again.
The truth is that even though I'm an amature writer and am still young, I've learned a lot of very important lessons in my life, one of which I want to pass along to you reader's. Everyone has bad days and deals with negative criticism at some point in their life, and it's important that you don't take everything to heart. I love what I do and I think I'm really going somewhere with my writing, and if you don't like what I have to say or how I say it, then there's great news for you - you don't have to read my work. Of course I love that I have a wide audience and am glad that the majority of people are enjoying it, but there is always the odd person who disagrees with what I have to say. And that's ok - it's a part of life. Even brilliant writer's like J.K Rowling have dealt with negative reviews. But as the very wise Ellen DeGeneres said upon the backlash comments from One Million Moms against her position as the spokesperson of
Unimpressed.
JC Penny for being a lesbian, "My haters are my motivators." I don't like to say that I have "hater's", because I think that's ridiculous. I remember my sister once said, "If you're not famous, you don't have hater's. People just don't like you." But you get the just of what I'm saying.
No matter what your talent is, what you look like or what type of person you are, there is always going to be someone out there who doesn't like it (whether it be your singing, your freckles or your loud laugh). This is what I want to pass on to you all... As long as you're happy and confident in whatever it is that people are criticizing, let it roll off your back. Unless it's constructive criticism and you can genuinely learn from it, it's not important. Reflecting on this made me seek some words of wisdom from a friend of mine, Eddie, who is a professional journalist. With his permission, I am
Word.
carrying on his lesson to you in hopes that it teaches you what it taught me and will reread this message whenever I need a confidence boost or a good laugh:
"You have an open mind and a thick skin. While there might be 5 people that like your work, there will be 1 that won't. That's fine. You can't win them all. It's like how I think Nickelback sucks yet they still have legions of fans all around the world....and they keep making music!
Take me for instance. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the greatest at sports writing. A while back there was a reader that commented on the website that I "wrote like an excited 8-year-old" and that he didn't get why I "was still employed." My editor told me not to sweat it and there was nothing wrong with my work.
It's all subjective. It's easy to say don't sweat it. But put it in this light: critics aren't spending their every waking hour thinking about you/your work, so you shouldn't do the same about
them. It's hard at first not to take it to heart. The first negative feedback will always sting. But it shouldn't matter. It's mind over matter. You don't mind that they don't matter!
What doesn't kill you make you stronger. Stand a little taller......damn you Kelly Clarkson song!"
What I want everyone reading to know is this... You can be the funniest person in the school, and there will be at least one person who thinks you're boring. You could have the most beautiful face in the entire world and be on the cover of Vogue, and someone will find a flaw. You could be the greatest writer in the entire world and sell a million copies and stay on the #1 New York Times Best Sellers list for weeks, and someone will think that you suck. But I've noticed that whenever I try to please other people, I end up unhappy. And that isn't fair. No matter what you do in life or who you are, there's always going to be someone you doesn't like you, so you might as well just be yourself. Being different and an individual is something to celebrate. As the great Dr. Suess once said, "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." Remember that quote the next time someone tries to bring you down, and remember that no one becomes successful or genuinely happy in life by trying to copy someone else or by being average.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Truth About Port Colborne - The Little City That Could

For those of you have been following my blog since this past September, you all know that I moved from Canada to live in the overwhelming, historical, and eternal city of Rome. But what you may not know about is the place where my permanent address is, and more importantly, what my hometown is like. I usually just tell people that I'm from Niagara Falls, because the truth is that it's a mere half hour drive away, and most people in this great big world have never heard of a little fishing city called Port Colborne. Well, luckily for you, I'm about to tell you everything you would ever want to know about what is known as the New York City of the Niagara region, because Port Colborne is where it's at.
Port Colborne is a city that everyone complains about, yet no one seems to leave. Its a city where people come to be born, die, and where teenagers spend their spare time parking discreetly at the abandoned Robin Hood flour mill to get it on (don't ask me how I know about that). I knew early on in my childhood that I would never live here longer than I had to, and that coming back to
Port Colborne is great - just ask them!
raise a family after completing my degree at university was not in the cards for me. And it wasn't - I'm in Rome. Don't get me wrong. I'm extremely proud to call Port Colborne home and appreciate being raised there. It was great as a child, and it's great for retirement (or maybe not, since we don't have an E.R...). They don't call it God's waiting room for nothing. But any age in between? There are no job opportunities to build a life, unfortunately. The cities greatest landmark is the Old Folks home. But I am proud to say that I come from Port Colborne, and am happy to return for the summer to spend time with the people I grew up with, ride my bike through the Friendship Trail, and have breakfast at Sambo's. But enough about that. Let's get to the good stuff. I'm going to give you the inside scoop on how to be cool in this grand city.If you want to wear the hottest styles, pajamas is very in right now, and has been for the past several decades. You can wear them anywhere, and yes, it really is that easy - just pajamas. 
Brownie points for pockets, buttons or a butt flap that make having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night much more convenient than having to actually pull them down. What kind of bullshit is that? People wear their pajamas everywhere in Port Colborne. On bikes, in the grocery store, whilst driving an automobile... Rumours has it that people some people even wear their pajamas - gasp! - at school. My high school had a strict uniform policy where even a white stitching on a black shoe could mean detention. But in Port Colborne, people actually think it's ok to wear plaid, cartoon, whatever pajamas in public as though it was ok. And if they have socks sewn to the bottoms? Well, in this city, that's like donning the latest Birkin bag. Hot? Newsflash to the 18,000 lazy kids and bad parents who allow this trend to continue - It's not ok! I don't care how comfortable you are. You look like an idiot. I mean, haven't you seen People of Walmart?!
How do these people expect to get on the Best Dressed list when you literally just roll out of bed and carry on about your day? Did you even bother to take them off to change your underwear? I know 
that when I want to have a laid back day, I'll wear a pair of jeans and a T shirt with flip flops. But pajamas? Have you lost all hope? Below is a poem written by the one and only Dr. Suess, taken from his Green Eggs And Ham piece, which I feel relates to how I feel about pajamas:
I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not wear them in the rain.
I will not wear them on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I will not wear them in a house (Ok, this one, I would).
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them ANYWHERE! (Except when I'm sleeping.)
If you're the type of person who likes to fit in with the in-crowd, then I know exactly what hobby 
Wild parties in Port Colborne.
you need in order to be invited to smoke cigarettes in the school parking lot and attend the coolest house party when someone's parents go out of town (a.k.a Welland)... Ride a bike, of course! But don't make it an actual hobby. Don't waste your time or money on a mountain bike or Spandex shorts so you can ride it with adrenaline rushing through your veins on the Niagara Escarpment, because that's not what we do here.
The cool thing to do is to ride it around the Compass in a wife beater bought from mom at Liquidation World. If you can do tricks, you're in. If it's a BMX, whoa. If it looks like a toddler's tricycle that is half your size, that's way far out, man. But seriously - the bikes teenagers ride around the city look as though they stole from a five year old, which very well may be the case. I hope all you
Port Colborne canal.
hooligans who jolly ride around the Compass take a minute to stop and think about the poor girl's heart you broke who is still sitting on her front porch steps in the heart of Lidsville who will never recover from this traumatic experience. 
Since summer is coming up, I can't leave out the go-to spot for enjoying this festive season. For some summer fun, a little suggestion for you all... Don't have a pool? No problem! The canal is free for all!!! I like to think of the canal as a giant toy box that is full of ecoli and other diseases that one can only get when swimming through the oil-filled waters. What's not to like, right? Not only do
My old high school.
you get to up your cool factor, but you also get cooled off after all that biking. It's like killing two birds with one stone (two birds who are floating dead beside you in the water, that is). 
There are two high schools in Port Colborne. There's Lakeshore Catholic (the one I went to) and Port High. They are nicknamed Lakewhore and Pot High, which is a bit telling. I'm happy I went to Lakeshore because there were more people, more sports, class options, clubs, and ultimately, more opportunities. My sister also went there, and most of my friends were going, so it only made sense than I would too. I don't have any regrets, because if I had gone to Port High, I don't know where or who I'd be today. But anyway, I am constantly getting status updates in my newsfeed about the details of everlasting high school drama, about how this girl is a slut and how that girl won't leave my boyfriend of four days alone, and how "UGH! Hate this school and everyone in it. Can't wait to leave." It's exactly like that, but with broken grammar.
As much as people may complain about Port Colborne and how most of our population is dying off (literally), I loved growing up here, and will tell everyone that I meet in university that I'm from a little city in the south of Ontario called Port Colborne. Sure, Tim Hortons may be our hot spot and tricycles are our Ferrari's, but you know what...?
It really is a beautiful place to live, and I wouldn't change it for the world.