Thursday, 26 February 2015


A little while ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with fashion expert, Erica Wark.  I met up with Erica at women's fashion retailer, Reitmans, where she was hosting a "Shop n' Style Party," as part of a collaborative project with the brand.

The fashion maven, who can often be found talking about the latest trends on programs such as The Social, The Marilyn Dennis Show, eTalk, Steven & Chris and Entertainment Tonight Canada, worked hard to get to where she is today.  She started modelling at 13, but quickly realized that she would rather be on the other side of the camera.  "I found that I wanted to ask questions and be more involved," says the Ottawa native.  Therefore, following her two passions, writing and fashion, she decided to study journalism and worked retail in between internships.
Erica realized early on that she had to figure out a way to pull all of her passions together.  Luckily for her, a call to do an ambush makeover for TV allowed her to determine the vision of her future career.  After a successful makeover session she was hired to do more, and well ... the rest is history, and now here she is!

You have developed quite a successful career in different areas of fashion such as styling and journalism.  What is one of your favourite parts of your job?

There is nothing that feels better than when someone comes out of a fitting room and they are lit up; that brings me so much joy.  I feel so empowered by making people feel good about themselves. 

Viva la Dolce enjoys celebrating culture.  How do you think culture affects one's style?

I think it has a massive impact.  For example, Zuhair Murad is a fantastic designer from the Middle East, and his designs are so incredibly beautiful and intricate. They are a little bit unique, fashion forward, and people in North America may be a little bit intimidated because we are not used to that sort of look.  However, since he started dressing celebrities, like Beyonce, and [other individuals] who we love to emulate, and who empower femininity and sex appeal, he has become this sensation.  Now he is doing bridal and his stuff is just so exquisite.

It seems that, now more than ever, individuals are using fashion to express their own uniqueness and personality. Would you agree?

Yes, I really found that over the last ten years fashion has changed in the sense that people are not wanting to look like everyone else, they are wanting to create a bit of personality in their style and clothing choices.  [The clothing store], Zara, is from Spain, and it has erupted in North America; now they have Zara home! This is a company that has erupted because it offers really unique fashion for an affordable price point.  I find that if I go into a Zara, its full of culture - it has little bits of everything from all parts of the world, because that's where these designers are getting their ideas and concepts from.  It's a fun time to be in fashion! 

The advances in technology are allowing for easier cross-cultural communication, which in turn is really allowing culture and fashion to mesh even more.  What is your view on this?

It's incredible nowadays; for example, through I can literally watch a runway show, like Dolce & Gabbana, live as it's happening from Milan, in the comfort of my home in Toronto, it's amazing!  The technology now has really allowed us to reach all different parts of the world to try new and exciting things in fashion, so I think that fashion and culture are just going to continue to come hand in hand as we go farther into the technological world.  As for social media, I think it's a great way for the consumer to connect with the designer or the brand, and try different things.

Lastly, have you noticed any Canadian culture in any leading fashion trends?
I've seen a lot of Canadian culture in a lot of different companies all over the world.  Take the Canadian Tuxedo* for example, that was a huge [2014] spring trend, that people even in London were talking about; it's something to be proud of!

{* "Canadian Tuxedo" refers to a denim on denim ensemble}

Thanks Erica, for the great insight regarding the influences of culture on fashion!

Find out more about Erica by visiting

Friday, 20 February 2015


After months of cold, bitter weather, it's no surprise most are looking forward to the arrival of spring ... myself included!   The promise of sunshine, warmth and beautiful flowers is a beacon of hope during the constant "extreme cold weather alerts" we have been dealing with recently. 

I decided to indulge in a little "spring" day dreaming through the following tablescape photos.  These gorgeous tabletops offer some great ideas for your future spring get togethers, and will hopefully help to get your mind off the winter scene outside!  Enjoy!

Image Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7

Saturday, 14 February 2015

International Love

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

For many, today holds plans of romantic dates with lovers, gift exchanges of chocolates and roses, or perhaps a night out on the town with friends.  Regardless of how you spend your Valentine's Day, one thing is for sure, today is a big day for love in North America.  Can the same be said for other countries around the world?  Find out by reading the list below, which describes the unique ways some other countries celebrate this special day!


Rumor has it that this love-filled holiday originated in France!  One of the reasons why, is due to a Frenchman, the Duke of Orléans, who is credited to having written the first Valentine's Day cards.  In 1415, the Duke was captured and taken prisoner to London.  While imprisoned, it is believed he wrote love letters to his wife in France.  Those letters are believed to have started the tradition of cartes d'amitiés, otherwise known as, French Valentine's Day cards.
Today, the French celebrate Valentine's Day with the writing and offering of such cards as well as with things such as, the exchange of gifts of chocolates and flowers or plans of a romantic dinner.


In Italy, Valentine's Day is known as, "La Festa Degli Innamorati" and is celebrated only between lovers and sweethearts; children do not exchange Valentine's Day cards as they do in North America.  Italians present each other with flowers and chocolates and plan romantic outings much like we do here.  However, Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, celebrates a little differently with a four-day-festival of events named, "Verona in Love."  The city is decorated, free concerts are held in the city square and restaurants offer speciality menus.
Although the holiday is actually an imported celebration from North America, the original St. Valentine's Day dates back to the Roman Empire.  During that time, February 14th was a holiday to celebrate the Roman goddess of women and marriage and Queen of the gods, Juno.


In Japan, Valentine's Day is celebrated in a completely opposite fashion - it is the women who give the gifts to the men!
The tradition is typically to give chocolates to men.  Women can choose between two types:  "Giri-choco," meant for close friends and colleagues, or "Honmei-choco," meant for boyfriends, lovers or husbands.  The most unique thing is that there is a follow-up to Valentine's Day in Japan called, "White Day," which takes place exactly one month after, on March 14th.  On this day, men are expected to give gifts to those who gifted them chocolates on Valentine's Day.


In South Africa, Valentine's Day is a week-long event!  Homes, stores and restaurants decorate well in advance of the big day.  On the 14th, individuals celebrate by pinning the name of their sweetheart on their sleeve.  This tradition is called, "Lupercalia," in honour of an ancient Roman fertility festival.  It is said that for some South African men, the tradition serves as a means of learning who their secret admirers are!


In the Philippines, they believe in "sharing" the love.  One particularly popular Valentine's Day tradition is to get married on the 14th in a mass wedding celebration.  Hundreds of couples gather together in large, public spaces across the country to either get married or renew their vows in a public ceremony.


Although lovers in England celebrate with cards, candies and flowers like most other places in the world, in the UK, Valentine's Day is also greatly celebrated by kids!  On February 14th, Children sing their favourite love songs and are rewarded with gifts such as candies and toys.
Some girls may also participate in the old tradition of looking for their future mate first thing in the morning!  Girls who are interested, wake up early in the morning on February 14th and look out their window.  Tradition says that the first man they see on the morning of St. Valentine's Day is the man they are meant to be with.


Due to Brazil's Carnival usually being celebrated on or near February 14th, Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados on June 12th.  On this day, they also honour Saint Anthony, the patron saint of matchmaking and marriage.  
While a number of rituals are held for the celebration, single women can participate in one which helps determine their future spouse.  On the eve of Dia dos Namorados, single women are to write down the names of men on slips of paper and fold them up.  Then, on June 12th, they are to choose one and open it up to reveal the name of their future husband!

From this handful of varied examples, clearly there is no right or wrong way to celebrate this holiday. Whatever way you choose to spend your Valentine's Day, hope it is a good one!  

Thursday, 5 February 2015

World Nutella Day

Growing up in an Italian household, Nutella was never very far out of reach.  It was a staple in our pantry and inventory was taken seriously.  My earliest memory of eating Nutella is as a child while on vacation in Italy.  My cousins and I waited patiently around the kitchen table as my grandmother evenly distributed the heavenly chocolate hazelnut spread on freshly baked bread. The melted chocolate on the warm bread was simply divine!  It was declared then, and still remains, as one of the best ways to enjoy eating Nutella.

Clearly, I am not the only one who loves my Nutella, as the product is now celebrated annually, world wide, on February 5th. This is thanks to Sara Rosso, an American blogger living in Italy, who declared the first World Nutella Day on February 5th in 2007.  Sara, who writes about food at Ms. Adventures in Italy, recruited Michelle Fabio from Bleeding Espresso in 2008, and the two have been spreading the love of World Nutella Day ever since!

While we thank these ladies for helping us get the party started for our Nutella celebrations, we truly have to pay homage to the creator of Nutella, Mr. Pietro Ferrero, (also founder of the Ferrero company) who first created the delicious spread in the 1940s.  Due to rationing during the Second World War, cocoa was in short supply, therefore, Mr. Ferrero decided to mix toasted hazelnuts with cocoa butter and vegetable oils to create a substance called, "Pasta Gianduja."  This recipe then changed to a more easily spreadable version named, "Supercreama Gianduja" in 1949. Finally, in 1964, in response to the product's international appeal, the spread was renamed Nutella.

As part of my contribution to this special day, I whipped up a batch of melt-in-your-mouth, "Easy Nutella Brownie Cups" (recipe adapted from Honey What's Cooking?; original recipe by Abby Dodge).  With a total of four main ingredients, the title of this recipe does not lie!

Here's what you will need:

1 cup Nutella (280g, 10oz)
2 eggs
9 tbsp plain flour
1/4 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
Line a 12 hole muffin pan with medium cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, mix together the Nutella, eggs, flour and salt until combined.
Divide the batter evenly into the 12 muffin holes.   

Bake for 12 minutes.  
Makes 12 Nutella brownie cups.

And ... voila!


Monday, 2 February 2015


Living in Canada, one becomes accustomed to dealing with snowy weather.  However, every once in a while, Mother Nature decides to test our limits and send us a curve ball - or should I say a gigantic snow ball!  Today, is one of those days.  As Toronto battles #TorontoStorm2015, most are staying off the roads and close to home.  If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs on this snowy day, don't fret - here are 15 activity ideas you can try out!

For those that love the great outdoors ... 

1. Play in the snow!  Whether it's snow angels, building a snowman or throwing a few   
    snowballs, channel your inner kiddie and jump in!

2. Get active!  Skating, snowboarding and snowshoeing are just some of the fun ways to 
    keep fit in the snowy weather.

3. Shovel a neighbour's driveway and/or walkway - use this time to help those around 

4. Bundle up, take a stroll in the snow and admire the beauty of Mother Nature.

5. Play a good ol' game of hockey.  

6. Relax in an outdoor hot tub.

For those that prefer the cozy indoors ...

7. Put on a onesie and nestle under a blanket with a nice warm drink ... ahhh!

8. Bake a batch of your favourite sweets.

9. Whip up a big batch of comforting soup.

10. Cozy up by the fire and watch the snow fall.

11. Play cards, do a puzzle, or a enjoy a board game.

12. Curl up with a good book or magazine.

13. Get out those DIY crafts you've been wanting to do!

14. Organize, organize, organize! Forget "spring cleaning," do a "winter refresh."

15. Catch up with friends and family - whether through phone or email, use this time 
      time to get in touch with loved ones.


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