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Raymond Around the World: La Grande Avventura Cibo Italiano

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Over the past couple of years, Raymond and I have visited Rome and Venice, Italy. On both of these wonderful trips, one of things we enjoyed most was the food. Italian cuisine is one of my favourites, and Raymond is quite partial to it as well. As vegetarians, we both love all of the food options we have when in Italy.

Well, at the beginning of this year, Raymond and I had a hankering for pasta, pizza, and the like, so we travelled down to Italy for a few days to nosh and relax. We walked quite a bit each day, which was good since we ate a lot, too!

Warning: You might want to grab a snack because if you aren’t already hungry, you sure will be by the time you finish reading this post ;)

On our foodie excursion, we spent most of our time in Venice. As soon as we arrived in this ancient city, Raymond and I popped into a pizzeria where we shared a pizza topped with spinach and egg.

Pizza Con Spinaci e Uovo
Raymond about to dig into pizza con spinaci e uovo

While walking around the town, we kept seeing these giant cookies in bakery windows, so we grabbed one to nibble on back at the hotel. It turns out these cookies are called pan dei dogi, and they are unique to Venice. They come in different flavours [ours was pistachio] and are topped with almonds or hazelnuts.

Pan dei Dogi al Pistacchio
With our pan dei dogi al pistacchio

There are no roads or cars in Venice; therefore, everyone gets around either by walking or via vaporetto, which is a waterbus. So the following day Raymond and I took a vaporetto along the Grand Canal to our next delicious destination.

Grand Canal in Venice
Enjoying the ride along the Grand Canal

Hidden down a side street, Friedland offers pasta and other dishes in take-out containers. Don’t let the unassuming appearance fool you—Friedland’s handmade pasta is extremely tasty and served piping hot.

Friedland in Venice
Walking into the tiny space occupied by Friedland
Pasta al Pomodoro
The yummy pasta al pomodoro from Friedland was only €3.99—a steal!

Raymond and I then walked around, just exploring. We figured we needed some exercise since we were planning on eating a large meal later. And we may have stopped at GROM for gelato, but we were too busy enjoying our ice cream and forgot to take a photo.

Later on when dinnertime rolled around, we hopped on a vaporetto to visit another restaurant.

Riding the Vaporetto
Peering out the vaporetto window

For dinner, we ventured to Spaghetteria-Pizzeria 6342 A Le Tole. We had seen this restaurant on a previous day and promised ourselves we would return because they had gorgeous fresh pasta on display in the front window. Raymond and I are so glad we made sure to go back because the food was incredible!

Maccheroni al Pomodoro
Maccheroni al pomodoro at 6342 A Le Tole

We must’ve been going through a pomodoro phase since we had it twice in one day, but it’s just so good. After cleaning our plates, Raymond and I could not figure out what dessert to order because they all sounded mouthwatering. But why decide when you can just split 2 different desserts, right?

Since we were in Venice during Carnival, not only did we get to see all of the amazing masks and costumes, we also were able to try a dish that is only served during this time of year: frittelle di Carnevale. These donuts come with a variety of fillings, but ours were filled with custard cream and came with warm chocolate to dip them in. Delizioso!

Frittelle di Carnevale
Raymond eyeing the frittelle di Carnevale

The other dessert we shared was—of course—tiramisù. Despite not liking coffee, I LOVE tiramisù. Raymond had never tried it before, but he’s definitely a fan now.

Tiramisù
6342 A Le Tole’s tiramisù

After a few tasty days in Venice, we travelled farther south to Rome. We were craving pasta, and we knew our first meal in Italy’s capital had to be cacio e pepe. This Roman specialty is a very simple dish of spaghetti, Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper.

Cacio e Pepe
Raymond says, “Mmm…”

If you are ever in Rome, don’t walk—RUN—to Pinsere. This award-winning pizzeria serves the classics as well as some unique flavour combinations. For our final meal in Italy, Raymond and I shared a gorgonzola, walnut, pear, and honey pizza, and we agreed that it was one of the best [if not THE best] pizzas we’ve ever had in our lives. The delectable crust and balance of flavours took this pizza to a whole other level of yumminess.

Pizza at Pinsere
This pizza was a thing of beauty

Raymond and I had so much fun eating our way around Italy. We may have to take more food-centric trips in the future. And I should’ve heeded my own warning and gotten a snack because writing this post has certainly made me hungry! I think I’ll wander on over to the Kitchen and see what Mrs. Claus is baking.

Where else do you think Raymond went this year? Stay tuned to find out! :D

Etsy Item of the Day: Ceramic Basset Hound Ornament

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As I mentioned when writing about REI and Subaru’s partnership to support the ASPCA, my basset hound is my best friend. With their long ears and droopy faces, bassets are just the cutest! So I immediately fell in love with this adorable ceramic basset hound ornament. Available with red & white or tri-colour markings, you can purchase whichever handmade ornament best matches your dog’s colouring.
Basset Hound Christmas Ornament

Etsy Seller: Beachwood Street

Celebrate Christmas with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2016 Winter Tour

If you’re a long-time Trans-Siberian Orchestra fan, you may already know about their 2016 winter tour. And those of you who are familiar with their music—but have yet to see them in concert—you’re in for a treat! Between now and the end of the year, TSO will be performing dozens of shows across the United States. Titled The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, these concerts will feature some of TSO’s greatest hits, clips of The Ghosts of Christmas Eve TV special, and a live narrator.


Eeee! After watching the preview above, I really want to go! :) My favorite part is the very end when the choir sings “Christmas Canon.” (Click here to view a full video of that song.) The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is performing from Jacksonville to Seattle and many places in between. To see if they will be performing in your city and to purchase tickets, visit the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s website. When you purchase your ticket online, you’ll also get a digital copy of TSO’s new album!

Etsy Item of the Day: German Shepherd Dog Christmas Card

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Having grown up with German shepherds all my life, they are one of my favorite breeds. And since my own sweet puppy is a shepherd/lab mix, I naturally like this card. :) I love the whole scene: the snow, the cottage, the stocking, and especially the dog’s festive scarf. If your favorite pup is a different breed, check out the many other Christmas cards sold in this shop, such as bichon frise, schnauzer, basset hound, and more!
Boxed Set of German Shepherd Dog Christmas Cards

Etsy Seller: Judzart

Give to a Local Food Bank This Holiday Season

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For some, the holidays are filled with potlucks, cookie swaps, and big family dinners, but at the same time other families struggle to simply put food on the table. Living in a state of food insecurity where one doesn’t have consistent access to enough affordable, nutritious food would be distressing any time of year, but I imagine it’s especially difficult during what is supposed to be a joyful season.

Ottawa Food Bank
Image via Ottawa Food Bank

Each year millions of hungry people turn to food banks for meals and pantry staples, and this Christmas you could lend a helping hand by donating to your local food bank. Whether you decide to pick up a few extra items at the grocery store or host a food drive at the office, your donation would assist those who need it most.

What Food Should You Donate?

If you would like to donate food, it would be best to call your local food bank to find out what their specific needs are, as that can vary from region to region and month to month. Food banks prefer to receive nonperishable, nutrient-dense foods, especially those that are low in salt and sugar. If you plan to scour your pantry for items to donate, make sure to check the expiration dates because food banks will not accept items that are past their expiration. Do not give glass containers [they are harder to transport and store], and canned goods with pop-tops are best since some of the people receiving the food will not have access to a can opener.

Below you will find a list of some items that are many times in need. I’ve also created a printable list that you can take on your shopping trip to make things extra easy for you :)

Grains:

Dry whole wheat pasta
Brown rice
Grits
Quinoa
Couscous
Plain oatmeal
Whole grain cereal
Whole grain crackers

Vegetables & Fruits:

Canned vegetables [low sodium]
Pasta sauce [low sodium]
Canned fruits [no sugar added]
Dried fruits [no sugar added]
Shelf-stable 100% vegetable juice
Shelf-stable 100% fruit juice

Proteins:

Canned tuna
Canned salmon
Canned chicken
Dried beans, lentils or peas
Canned beans [low sodium]
Canned soups, stews, or chili [low sodium]
Peanut butter or other nut butters
Unsalted nuts
Trail mix

Milk:

Shelf-stable milk [cow, soy, rice]
Evaporated milk
Dry milk

Cooking Oil:

Olive oil
Canola oil
Coconut oil
Vegetable oil

Other Food Items:

Spices
Coffee
Tea

Other Items:

Paper products
Diapers
Baby formula
Pet food
Toiletries
Bottled water
Cleaning products
Disaster supplies [MREs, emergency kits, etc.]

Donate Holiday Food Items

Besides the more essential donation ideas listed above, since we are in the Christmas season, you could also donate holiday food items so that even those who are food insecure can enjoy a festive meal. Remember, these items should still be nonperishable and low in salt and sugar.

Holiday Food Items

Canned yams
Canned vegetables [low sodium]
Cranberry sauce
Boxed stuffing
Dry macaroni
Boxed mashed potatoes
Canned gravy
Brown rice
Canned pumpkin
Canned pie filling

Donate Money

Food banks will also always appreciate monetary donations. The volunteers at the bank will best know that their needs are at any given time, so that takes the guesswork out of deciding what to purchase at the grocery store. Plus, many food banks have food industry partners that are quite generous, so every dollar they receive has 5 times the buying power. That means every $1 you donate equals $5 worth of food.

Find a Food Bank Near You

There are food banks all across the United States and Canada—in both large metro areas such as Ottawa and NYC, as well as in more rural areas like Western Michigan.

If you live in the United States, you can locate your nearest food bank by visiting Feeding America’s website. For those of you in Canada, you may check out the food bank locator on Food Banks Canada’s website.

Etsy Item of the Day: Peach & Gold Patchwork Stocking

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Featuring a mixture of peach, gold, ivory, and black, this quilted patchwork stocking would be eye-catching hanging from any mantel. With the cloud, deer, and arrow patterns, this stocking has an abstract woodland quality about it, and I really love the colour palette—even though it’s far from your classic Christmas colours. This Etsy shop has a variety of other fun, atypically coloured stockings, such as this burnt orange, grey, and black stocking or this blue, mustard, white, and grey stocking.
Quilted Patchwork Christmas Stocking

Etsy Seller: Fern Leslie Baby

A Very Merry Modern Nutcracker Performance

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Hip Hop NutcrackerEvery holiday season, I indulge myself in watching my favorite Christmas movies and listening to my favorite festive songs. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without them! And although I have my “must-have” list of holiday classics, I enjoy adding new favorites into the mix. So if you’re like me and want to spice up your Christmas traditions, you may be interested in the Hip Hop Nutcracker.

A unique spin on Tchaikovsky’s classic score, this thrilling performance combines rap music and hip hop dance into a modern holiday show. The Hip Hop Nutcracker tour kicked off last month, and it will continue traveling across the United States during the month of December. Ticket prices range from $10 to $95. Check the dates below to catch a show near you!

2016 Performance Dates:

Etsy Item of the Day: Woodland Animal Ornaments

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Aren’t these little animal ornaments adorable? They are all so cute, but I think my favorite is the badger—I simply love its stout shape and etched details. The other available ornaments are: fox, rabbit, squirrel, owl, deer, hedgehog, toadstool, and bear. You can purchase just one, or if you love them as I do, you can order the whole set.
Etsy Item of the Day: Woodland Animal Ornaments

Etsy Seller: Minifelts

Scoop Up Some Holiday Cheer with These Festive Ice Creams

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Whether it’s 30°C or 0°C, I absolutely love eating ice cream. When Raymond and I travel, we have such a great time sampling local frozen treats, such as patbingsu in South Korea or Ghirardelli ice cream in San Francisco. When the seasons change, some ice cream purveyors release special edition flavours just for the holidays. Two of my favourite things—Christmas and ice cream—brought together? Yes, please!

For my fellow ice cream enthusiasts, I have compiled a list of some shops and restaurants that are featuring festive flavours this holiday season. While some of these icy indulgences might seem pricy compared to your typical supermarket offerings, trust me, they’re worth it, as nothing quite beats artisanal ice cream.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Columbus • Cleveland • Nashville • Chicago • Atlanta • Charleston • L.A. • St. Louis • Online

Jeni's Splendid Holiday Collection

On any number of occasions, I have had ice cream from Jeni’s, and I can vouch that it is indeed splendid! Jeni’s Splendid Holiday Collection features complex, unique flavours, such as The Matterhorn [wildflower honey ice cream with white chocolate flakes and smoky almonds] and Spiced Sweet Cream: Holiday Notes [cardamom, Peru balsam, fenugreek, and vanilla]. The whole collection includes:

  • Blackcurrant Lambic Sorbet
  • Dark Chocolate Peppermint
  • Mont Blanc Buttermilk Frozen Yoghurt
  • Sweet Potato Éclair
  • The Matterhorn
  • Spiced Sweet Cream: Holiday Notes

Purchase an individual pint online for $12 or the entire collection for $68.

If you live in—or will be visiting—Columbus, Cleveland, Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Charleston, Los Angeles, or St. Louis, you can also visit a Jeni’s scoop shop to pick up a pint or try a trio on a handmade waffle cone. Find your nearest scoop shop here.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Edinburgh • London • Norwich • Bath • Liverpool • Glasgow • York • And Many More Cities

With 4 scrumptious vegetarian burgers on the menu, Gourmet Burger Kitchen is my favourite spot to grab a burger when I’m in the UK. What’s more, they have really tasty milkshakes, including a gingerbread cookie dough and clotted cream ice-cream milkshake [£4.75]. Find a GBK location near you and enjoy this seasonal shake.

Salt & Straw

Portland • Los Angeles • Online

Salt & Straw Gingerbread Ice Cream

Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw is offering a December Seasonal Pints Pack. Taking inspiration from the Christmas season and Portland, this pack contains the following flavours:

  • Peppermint Cocoa
  • Apple Brandy & Pecan Pie
  • Gingerbread Cookie Dough
  • Congressman Blumenauer’s Fruitcake
  • Fennel Five Spiced Eggnog

Order the pack online for $65 or try the flavours at one of Salt & Straw’s Portland or Los Angeles scoop shops.

Shake Shack

NYC • Chicago • Los Angeles • Boston • Philadelphia • Washington, D.C. • And Many More Cities

Shake Shack Holiday Trio

From humble beginnings in Madison Square Park to now a global empire, Shake Shack has introduced a trio of holiday shakes that are available through 1 January. Choose between Chocolate Peppermint, Christmas Cookie, or Pumpkin Pie [$5.79]. On sale at all U.S. locations except stadiums and JFK airport, find your nearest Shack here.

King of Pops

Atlanta • Athens • Charleston • Charlotte • Greenville • Nashville • Richmond • Savannah • Online

King of Pops Gingerbread

The mission of Atlanta-based King of Pops is “to introduce the community to frozen happiness on a stick,” and they do just that with their artisan popsicles, which are quite tasty. This year you can grab their pack of exclusive holiday flavours: Gingerbread, White Chocolate Peppermint, Eggnog, and Apple Cider. This pop pack is available online for $15 or at their locations around the Southern U.S.

If you live near Atlanta, you can also stop by King of Pops Bar & Good Grub at Ponce City Market. Here you can get pop dipped in chocolate or a poptail, which is exactly what is sounds like—a cocktail with a pop in it. Yum!

GROM

Rome • Venice • Milan • Florence • Turin • Verona • Siena • Brescia • Parma • And Many More Cities

GROM Gelato

Selling gelato that is 100% natural, GROM has locations all over Italy, and on my trips there, I have been known to visit GROM more than once, as gelato is most definitely a requirement during any holiday to Italy. This Christmas season, they are serving several festive flavours, such as Panettone, Marrons Glacés [candied chestnuts], and Caramello al Sale [caramel with Himalayan pink salt]. If you’re in Italy or will be visiting Italy this December, check out Il Natale di GROM for their fun advent calendar, and find a location to enjoy some gelato yourself.

What is your favourite ice cream treat during the holiday? Is there another creamery I should know about? Let me know in the comments!

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