Tuesday, 29 December 2015

NEW YEAR'S EVE AROUND THE WORLD

Hello all!  I'm happy to be back behind the blogger screen, as it has been a little while since I last posted. 

I hope that all your Christmas festivities went well and that you are having fun preparing for New Year's Eve!


Perhaps you have your plans all sorted out, or maybe you are still trying to decide on what to do December 31st? Either way these fun and interesting traditions from around the world are something you might want to incorporate into your NYE night!



(photo
Italy

On December 31st, you will find Italians donning red undies beneath their festive frocks, as they believe it brings good luck for the coming year. On January 1st, Italians keep the good luck coming by enjoying lentil dishes.


Spain


In Spain, it is custom to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight in order to bring good luck for the year ahead.  The trick to securing your good fortune is to eat the grapes in time - one by one, keeping time with the clock as it chimes midnight.


Ireland


We all know the "luck of the Irish," well here is a part of their secret: On New Year's day, individuals bang loaves of bread on doors and walls to chase the bad luck out of a home and bring the good spirits in.  Some also believe that this will ensure adequate bread for the coming year.


Germany


On New Year's Eve, Germans feast on fish - specifically a dish of carp or herring - with carrots and cabbage, in order to bring financial stability in the new year.  Some even put a few fish scales in their wallet to ensure prosperity.


Brazil

Brazilians will be found wearing white on New Year's Eve to secure their good fortune for the year ahead.  They also make it a point to throw gifts, such as flowers and candles, into the ocean so as to appease, Iemanja, the Goddess of the Sea.  It is believed that if your offerings return to you, she is not pleased by them and your wish will not be granted.  Ah well, there's always the next year!


Philippines


Like most countries, the Philippines celebrates a number of traditions on New Year's Eve.  One tradition in particular, requires opening all of the doors and windows in one's home on the eve of the new year.  This is done to allow negative energy out and good energy in.


Worldwide


Although each country may have their specific, unique traditions, one custom that is common throughout the world is, toasting the new year at midnight.  The name of this practice, "toast," first originated in the 17th century, when pieces of spiced, toasted bread were added to drinks to enhance their flavour. 




Hope you enjoyed these fun, cultural facts!  Which ones will you be practicing on December 31st?


Best wishes for a safe and healthy New Year!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Thanksgiving Favourites


Thanksgiving is a great time of year!  Not only does it occur during one of my favourite seasons, but it is filled with so many of my other "favourites" as well!  From pumpkin patches to family gatherings, this special occasion marks a time for many joyous moments!

It is also a time when we are called to truly reflect upon all the blessings we have in our lives.  While many of us aim to do this more often, we unfortunately sometimes lose track amidst the hustle and bustle of the everyday. Thanksgiving is that gentle reminder to look around us and see the gifts we have been given, and more importantly, appreciate them wholeheartedly.



Viva la Dolce wishes you and your family a wonderful thanksgiving this year!

And now for a few of my Thanksgiving favourites . . .



    Pumpkin Pie (mmm...)




    Harvest Inspired Decor



    Fall Leaves



What are your Thanksgiving Favourites?  
Tell me in the comments below!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Cozy Sweater Time

It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . cozy sweater time!  

While some may be missing their summer staples like tank tops and sandals, others (like me) are embracing the swap to fall fashion trends such as leather booties and big cozy sweaters.  Sweaters and cardigans are a must-have for fall! They not only keep you warm on those chilly days and nights, but they can also usually be easily dressed up or down, making them the perfect transition piece for day-to-evening outfits. 


If you're struggling to find the perfect sweater for your fall fashion wardrobe, don't fret! I've rounded up some of the season's top sweater and cardigan picks.  So grab that cup of pumpkin spice latte, and enjoy scrolling through! 














Saturday, 5 September 2015

VLD Italian 101 - Proverb 5



This instalment in the VLD Italian 101 Series is the perfect fit for this holiday long weekend!  It's a little reminder to kick back, relax, and have some fun!  Get those belly laughs going all weekend long - it's good for your health! ;)

A quick little note on the technicalities of the language -  This proverb is literally translated as "Laughter makes good blood." As well, this proverb uses the verb "FARE" which means to make or do.  See below for the full conjugation of the verb:

FARE - to make/do

io   (I)                                              faccio
tu  (you *informal singular)                     fai
lui (he), lei (she)                                       fa
Lei (you *formal singular)                       fa
noi (we)                                         facciamo
voi (you *plural)                                      fate
loro (they)                                             fanno



Wednesday, 2 September 2015

FALL LIPS

Although mother nature is letting us enjoy a little more sunshine, we can't deny that the fall season is just around the corner.  To be honest, I cannot wait! With cozy sweaters, pumpkin pie and cool, fresh air, fall is my absolute favourite season!

If you aren't ready to jump into the next season quite as much as me, not to worry.  There are a few gradual ways to ease into fall, and changing up your beauty look is one of them.  I've rounded up some of the season's hottest lip shades below.  Have fun adding these dolce colours to your fall palette!



Charlotte Tilbury - 'Matte Revolution' Luminous Modern-Matte Lipstick in Lost Cherry





MAC - Vamplify in Suggestive



NARS - Semi Matte Lipstick in VIP Red




Urban Decay - Revolution Lipstick in Venom


Tom Ford - Lip Colour in Bruised Plum


Thursday, 27 August 2015

THE SECRET BEHIND GREAT PIZZA


It's no secret that the Italian culture is synonymous with great pizza.  With the history of "pizza" dating back to the 10th century in Central Italy, it is clear Italians have a lot of experience when it comes to preparing a perfect pizza pie!

Michael Menchella, and Mark Menchella, owners of Menchella's Gourmet Pizza located in Oakville and Toronto, are part of the Italian community and have many years of pizza making under their belt.  Growing up in the kitchen with their nonna (grandmother), the brothers learned early on the art and craft of making delicious food.  Their grandparents, Ernestina and Pasquale, owned their own successful pizzeria back home in the small town of San Lorenzo in Lazio, Italy.  Although the couple did not have the means to open up a pizzeria upon immigrating to Canada, that didn't stop Nonna Ernestina from teaching her grandchildren her tricks in the kitchen.  Years later, inspired by their grandparents example, the Menchella family decided to continue on their tradition and open up their own family pizzerias.

I had a chance to chat with Michael about the secrets behind great pizza, the importance of family traditions and of course...what he finds dolce in life!


*    *    *    *    *


1.  You consider your grandparents your inspiration. Can you tell us about them?

My grandmother taught me, from a young age, all about baking.  In the time of war in Italy, goods were scarce, so they made a lot of their own ingredients from scratch, like their own flour, sauce...everything came from their farm.  It was a natural thing for them to make their own goods, and then they sold them as well.
When my grandfather came to Canada, he had $5 in his pocket.  My grandmother would work during the day, and my grandfather did the night shift, so they never had the opportunity to open their own place again.
Today, my grandfather is 98 years old and thrilled about our pizzeria.  He even sometimes goes to the location in downtown Toronto and helps with the prep work!

   


2.  Many of your ingredients are imported from Italy, why is this important to you?

We want to try to keep it as authentic as possible, as if it were back in the day and my grandparents were doing it their way.

3.  What does your Italian heritage mean to you?

It's everything; without our heritage, we are just another chain of a thousand pizzerias.  We offer what we learned from our grandparents.  I didn't open up the pizzeria because I was looking for a new career; I had a job, I could have stayed there and earned my paycheck.  Instead, I did this because it's my passion.  This is something that I grew up loving to do.  My grandparents raised us and my grandmother was extremely influential, I was always in the kitchen with her.  She taught us as we helped her, so I learned in a very natural way.



4.  Italians are all about family, how do you incorporate this into your pizzeria?

Some of the pizzas are named after our family members or the Italian towns and provinces we come from.  For example, one of my daughters is named Bianca, which means "white," and so her pizza is a cheese pizza; My mother loves spice, so her pizza is named the "Hot Nori;" We have an olive pizza named after the city of Gaeta, as it's a place in Italy known for it's olives. We like to have fun with it.

5. What are some of the most positive and negative aspects of opening a pizzeria?

The best thing is that we are doing what we love to do, what we grew up doing.  It's amazing that we got to turn that into what we do for a living.  The time spent away from family is what can be challenging, however you learn how to balance it.


6.  You seem to have some unique pizzas, like the one topped with Nutella; can you tell us about some of them?

We have a variety of unique pizzas.  For example, we have the "Dessert" pizza, which is nutella with fresh fruit; the "Vincenzo," which is a Chicago style deep dish pizza; and the "Pescatore," which is one of our fish pizzas. We also make a variety of custom pizzas;  for example, we have made pumpkin shaped pizzas for Halloween and heart shaped pizzas for Valentines with customers' initials on them. 
We also add a personal touch by writing messages on our pizza boxes, as opposed to having a general branded box.  You may receive your order with a picture on the box, or perhaps a message like, "Thank you very much for your order, from The Menchellas."

7.  What are your most popular pizzas?

"The Gia," a nice fresh pizza with Arugula, cherry tomatoes, mini bocconcini, and a balsamic glaze;  "The Menchella," a meat lovers pizza; and "Gianni Stecchino," named after a well-known Italian movie character, which includes fresh bacon, Italian pepperoni and mushrooms.



8.  Last but not least, Viva la Dolce is all about celebrating what makes you happy in life. Tell us, what is your "dolce" in life?

My "dolce" is having people share in our family traditions.  It is nice to hear all the compliments and enjoyment, as it makes it all come full circle; it validates all the hard work our family has done.  Most of all though, my "dolce" in life is getting a kiss from all three of my girls before I leave the house each day.


*    *    *    *    *
 Enjoy some pizza on the Menchellas!  Enter below for your chance to win a $10 gift card!
(gift card is valid at both the Oakville and Toronto locations of Menchella's Gourmet Pizza) 
Please note: This contest is limited to residents of the Greater Toronto Area (for the purposes of this contest that includes the city of Toronto, the regions of Durham, Halton, York, and Peel, as well as, the Hamilton Area) 


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

VLD Italian 101 - Proverb 4


This proverb reminds us that when we truly enjoy what we are doing (whether it is work, a sport, a hobby, etc.), all sacrifices and efforts we put into that activity are worth it.  

For example, often times people worry about money or time being wasted as they try out new ventures; unfortunately, those worries usually stop individuals in their tracks and hinder them from achieving their true desires.  

This phrase is a great reminder to keep your passions alive, regardless of whether they lead to fame or fortune. When you truly enjoy something, that's a reward in itself.

Friday, 7 August 2015

À la Parisienne



There is something so magical about the Eiffel Tower and the Parisian world it represents... As a lover of languages and culture, I have a special place in my heart for French.  

Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised on a recent trip to Chapters Indigo, when I found an abundance of cute Parisian influenced items, and many on them on sale!  For those of you who are redecorating an office, gearing up for the school year (yes, that's you my fellow French teachers), or perhaps just wanting to add a little bit of Paris to your life, check out the list below!

*Please note, this is not a sponsored post.


2 // Desk sling on sale!
6 // Paris Map Print - 16x16 ~ on sale!
7 // Mini Paris Sticky Notes ~ on sale! ($1.00 each!)  
8 // C'est la Vie Print - 8x10 ~ on sale!

Friday, 31 July 2015

Italy's Secret Beaches

As I sit here writing this in the middle of a heat wave in Toronto, I can't help but think of the refreshing "Mediterraneo" (Mediterranean Sea).  As some of you may know, August is vacation time in Italy. As the cities become unbearably hot, many locals flock to the seasides or mountains for some relief.  If you happen to be visiting in Italy or on your way there (lucky you!), or perhaps you are planning a future summer vacation, you will definitely want to check out the list below of Italy's best hidden beaches!  This list is sure to come in handy, as you will want to avoid the tourist crowds around this time of year. 


Spiaggia di Sansone, Tuscany 






This stunning beach is located on Isola d'Elba (Island of Elba), which is a short ride from the Tuscan mainland.  A lush background of Mediterranean shrub and limestone cliffs lines the quiet beach, which is frequented by only a handful of locals.  


Punta della Penna Beach, Abruzzo

This Blue Flag status beach is located just north of Vasto, in the province of Chieti.  You won't find any rented chairs on this sandy, pristine beach, so be sure to come equipped! 


Spiaggia delle Velare (Spiaggia delle "Due Sorelle"), Le Marche




This white pebbled beach, characterized by two twin rocks ("two sisters") just off the shore, is located on the Adriatic coast in Le Marche's Conero Natural Reserve.  This free beach is only accessible by boat, or you can take the challenging mountain path known as "Wolf's Pass."  It's worth the trek however, as this scheduled beach offers unspoilt silvery sand and cool clear waters for your pleasure.


Spiaggia di Caminia, Calabria





This beach is located near Soverato, on the Ionian coast of the Gulf of Squillace.  This quiet spot, nestled between two steep cliffs, is a local secret and virtually tourist free!


Cala Luna, Sardinia






This is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches of Sardinia.  Located in the Gulf of Orosei, it's crystal clear waters classify it as one of the best snorkelling beaches on the island.  It is located approximately three kilometres away from the Blue Marino Caves, and is only accessible by a 4 kilometre hike from Cala Fuili beach or by boat from Cala Gonone.

photos via 1/2/3/4/5


Hope these selections help you in deciding your next European getaway!  

A presto ragazzi ...

Saturday, 11 July 2015

VLD Italian 101 - Proverb 3


The third instalment in the Viva la Dolce language series expresses one of my all-time favourite quotes!  This is just one of many inspiring quotes by Italian author, Giuseppe Donadei.  

I love the rawness of this quote.  It blankly states the hard-to-swallow, ultimate truth, that life isn't easy.  However, Donadei nicely juxtaposes this idea with the uplifting thought that, "nothing is impossible."  It is a reminder that while things may not always be easily attainable or may not always run smoothly, there is always hope as anything is possible.

On the language side, Donadei uses the negative indefinite pronouns, "niente" and "nulla." Both mean the same thing, "nothing," and can almost always be used interchangeably.  However, be aware of the following rule when when using these words: when "niente" and "nulla" are placed in front of the verb, for example, "Niente mi piace" (I don't like anything or Nothing is pleasing to me) or "Nulla è cambiato (Nothing has changed)," they create a negative connotation without having to add anything to the sentence.  However, when either of these two words are placed after the verb, you need to add the double negative, "non," to create the negative significance. For example, "Non mi piace niente," and "non è cambiato nulla."


A presto!

Friday, 3 July 2015

10 TIME SAVING TIPS


Annnnd we're back!

After an incredibly busy month of June and far too much time away from Viva la Dolce, I am happy to return to my desk and write.

While dealing with a hectic schedule, I was inspired to come up with a list of time-saving tips.  Here are my top 10 time savers to help you during those busy days/weeks/months. 

Enjoy!

*   *   *

1  WRITE IT DOWN - create lists! colour code! write it multiple times if you have to!  The 
    point is, write down what you need to get done or most likely you will forget.  No 
    matter how great your memory is, when you are overwhelmed with an abundance of 
    tasks at hand, your brain simply cannot remember it all.  Especially if you have just 
    gone through a pregnancy - "mommy brain" is real and you will forget.  

2  TOP 3 FIRST - get your top three tasks done first.  If you get the most important things
done for the day, all the rest is bonus!  You will feel satisfied and accomplished - and   
    yes, you can reward yourself with that sundae! ;)

3  DO LESS - instead of writing down everything you need to get done for the next  
    week, focus on one day at a time and be realistic with how much you can accomplish in 
    a day.  Write down a few tasks for the day that you know you can dedicate enough time 
    to get done.  While it's tempting to multitask, it doesn't always save as much time as 
    you think.  Instead, focus on one task at a time, do it right the first time, and cross it 
    off the list.



4  GET ORGANIZED - create a spot for everything and put things back in their proper place 
    after you use them.  Although this tip may sound somewhat elementary, I feel it is 
    often overlooked.  Most of the time while rushing we think, 'I don't have time now, I 
    will put that away later.'  Then the next time we need to use said item, it is nowhere 
    to be found which causes us to waste time looking for it. This tip helps to keep things 
    neat and tidy (which cuts down on your cleaning time), and earns you precious 
    minutes, as you won't have to go and search for items when you need them.

5  DO IT NOW - procrastination is nobody's friend.  If you put it off until later, 
tomorrow, the next day...your workload will pile up.  Get it done now.

6  MAKE USE OF THE WORD "NO" - often times, we take on too much.  Whether you're 
   overwhelmed from being the superwoman/man type or the helpful type, it is time you 
   'take a break from taking it on' and learn to use the word 'no'.  It will be a huge help,as    
    you can properly focus on the few tasks on your list.

7  DELEGATE - if you're taking on less, but things still need to get done, you're going to 
    need some help.  Don't be shy or proud about this.  Ask those around you for a hand, 
   and remember to be open-minded.  Although they may not do things exactly as you 
   would, remember, they are doing their best to help you in your time of need.



8  TAKE A NAP - although this may sound counter-productive, it can actually help you save 
    time in getting things done.  If you are tired, you are most likely taking longer 
    than usual to complete a task and may be making mistakes in the process.  If you have 
    the opportunity, take a 20 minute 're-charge' nap - it can do wonders on your   
    productivity for the rest of the day! 

9  BREATHE - yes, you are probably freaking out because you have so much to do in so 
    little time, however this is not the time to break down.  Being level-headed and 
    focused is most important during stressful times.  To avoid making mistakes or rash 
    decisions, take a few moments to yourself and breathe.  Sometimes a five minute walk   
    to clear your mind, or even just stepping away from your desk and grabbing a drink of 
    water, can make a huge difference in perspective.

10 WAKE UP EARLIER - while this is not always easy to do, it really does wonders for your 
    schedule. Waking up 10-15 minutes, or even 1/2 hour, earlier can allow you the time 
    to get small tasks out of the way, while the rest of the world is still sleeping. Especially 
    if you have little ones, you will relish this time of getting things done with some focus
    and silence.   


pics via 1 // 2 // 3

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

7 Best Italian Dishes

Happy Italian Heritage Month!

Since 2010, the Province of Ontario has recognized June as, "Italian Heritage Month."  This declaration by the province was decided in order to honour the significant contributions made by the Italian Canadian community in Ontario.  As a result, this time of year you can find a multitude of festivities honouring Italian culture and traditions throughout Ontario, and the rest of Canada.

This past Sunday marked the official kick off for the Toronto celebrations as Casa Loma, one of the city's premier heritage attractions, was transformed into an authentic piazza for the heritage event, "Italian National Day at Castello Italia."

The event included live entertainment, automotive displays, an art exhibit and a culinary feast... oh what a feast! From fresh bocconcini cheese to aged parmiggiano, pasta to panna cotta, and espresso to wine, the festa (celebration) was complete with some of Italy's finest tastings.

It is no surprise that the event featured mouth-watering samplings as Italian culture is synonymous with amazing food! It is noted that the secret to Italy's great dishes are simple, fresh ingredients.  Italians credit the quality of the ingredients as the most important factor when creating a savoury meal.  Of course, knowing what best to pair those ingredients with is the other key factor!

If you're looking to add a little bit of Italia to your kitchen this month or just looking to enjoy a scrumptious meal, try some of the recipes I have collected for you below.  They are some of Italy's best dishes, and my favourites! 

Buon appetito! ;)

Grilled Crostini with Burrata, Figs & Prosciutto
From Yes to Yolks

This is a great appetizer or snack.  The key ingredient is the marvellous, rich Burrata cheese!  If you've never heard of it, or tried it, you can thank me later... Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from a delicious blend of mozzarella and cream.  Simply put, it is Heaven on Earth.  When mixed with figs and prosciutto, Burrata's wonderful goodness is even more enhanced, mmm...




















Quick and Easy Spaghetti alla Carbonara
From Bowl of Delicious

This recipe is rich in taste and very simple to make.  With a few key ingredients: spaghetti, pancetta (or bacon), eggs, parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper, you will have a splendid dish that is sure to impress!









Mushroom Risotto
From Diane, A Broad

Risotto is a classic Italian dish, which can be made in a variety of ways.  Whether the recipe calls for asparagus, saffron or mushrooms, one thing is for sure - risotto is definitely a recipe that warms the stomach and the heart. The extra preparation time needed for this meal demands a little extra love and care on the cook's behalf; those who taste the dish will surely recognize this in each heart warming spoonful!









Saltimbocca alla Romana

From The Italian Chef

This classic Roman dish is a beautiful medley of veal, prosciutto, sage and white wine.  The combination of bold flavours allows the dish to live up to it's name, "Saltimbocca," which literally means, "jump in the mouth."



Seafood Salad
From 2 Sisters Recipes

Although seafood salad is traditionally made during the Christmas season, this dish is delicious any time of the year. The types of fish used may vary, but often the recipes include squid, crab, octopus, shrimp and scallops.


























Pizza Margherita (A Neopolitan Classic)
From La Bella Vita Cucina

This pizza may only call for a few simple ingredients, but it is by far one of Italy's finest creations!  This recipe truly demonstrates the Italian recipe rule of quality over quantity when selecting ingredients for great dishes.






Panna Cotta (with Fresh Wild Berry Sauce)
From La Tavola Marche Recipe Box

This creamy dessert originated in Northern Italy.  The cream can be flavoured a number of ways (i.e. vanilla, chocolate, lemon, etc.) and served with a variety of garnishes, the most common being berries.  It is an elegant and refreshing dessert, which is most suitable after a rich Italian meal. 











 

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