Adopting the essentials of Italian lifestyle

There is, undoubtedly, something about the Italian lifestyle that appeals to many of us. Whether it is the weather, the food, the passion for everything from opera to football, the world-class fashion sense or the historic architecture, many of us want a piece of Italy’s dolce vita.

BRING IT HOME

The good news is that you can bring many elements of Italian style into your own life, with relative ease. The Italian lifestyle is fundamentally about valuing quality over quantity; this applies to clothes, food and décor in particular. Italians like to find what works well and stick with it, which is why so much of the nation’s architecture and traditions have lasted for centuries.

For example, the next time you are in Italy, have a look around you at the Italians in the street. You will notice that many are impeccably dressed, but not in garish, up-to-the minute styles. Italian fashion is admired worldwide for its timeless, understated chic and quality fabric and manufacture, and you can see this in the outfits worn by many Italians on a day-to-day basis. Most Italians have relatively few clothes, but what they have is of fine quality, cut and style – quality matters more than materialism.

The same applies to architecture, including domestic architecture. You will notice, on any visit to Italy, that certain elements are repeated from home to home. The use of traditional shutters on windows is a good example – these look great, last for years and do the job well, so why change?

SIMPLICITY

Simplicity is another key Italian value. Italian food is fundamentally about good quality ingredients, used well. Most Italian dishes are not complex, but they are cooked from scratch in kitchens up and down the country, using the best ingredients available, just as they have been for years. Italians are not impressed by pre-packaged or convenience foods, and they eat all the better for it.

Similarly, another great Italian passion, coffee. The huge range of fancy coffees that can be purchased in coffee houses across the world nowadays may have been inspired by Italy, but this is primarily an American invention. Italians simply drink good, well-made coffee, which they usually take strong and with just a splash of, if any, milk (cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink, and eyebrows are raised if you order it after 11am). As a result, the quality of the beans and the roasting really shine through in truly Italian coffee.

COMMUNITY VALUES

Finally, Italians have a great ability to look outside themselves and recognise that they are part of a wider community. This is expressed in a variety of ways, including communal meals involving family and friends, and a general sociability and preference for company over solitude.

There is clearly much to admire in the Italians’ way of life, but there is no reason why you should not also benefit from it. With a few simple touches – inviting several friends for a home-cooked meal, valuing quality over materialism, looking to tradition for inspiration – we can all move a little closer to the Mediterranean, wherever we happen to live. Why don’t you give it a try, today?

This post was written by David Charles for Take on the Road.

Planning family holidays: Should you stay in the UK or go abroad?

Taking your family on holiday is an incredible way to relax, unwind and spend some quality time with each other. Yet the age old dilemma always presents itself – should you stay in the country or embark on an overseas trip? To help you decide what’s best for you and your family, Nannies Incorporated (a London based nanny and maternity nurse agency) has compiled a useful list of pros and cons that will help you choose a holiday destination that you’re guaranteed to love.

drgillybean via Flickr

drgillybean via Flickr

BENEFITS OF FAMILY HOLIDAYS IN THE UK

There are no airports involved: One of the major downsides of taking the family overseas is the fact that it involves flying. This means lengthy airport waits and multiple passports to worry about, not to mention hours on end in the plane itself – a tantrum or screaming baby on board a flight is not fun.

Instead, why not pack up the car and head on a family road trip? Whether you drive for a few hours or a few days, taking the the car will give you added flexibility and is also a great way to bond. If you’ve got an extra seat in the car, taking a private nanny along is a great way to make your road trip that little bit easier.

There are some great destinations: Despite its rainy reputation, the UK summer can be delightful and there are some fantastic places to discover and enjoy this year. Traditional holiday spots such as Brighton and Cornwall are beautiful and offer all the creature comforts that you’re used to. There are also some exciting theme parks and adventure attractions that are guaranteed to keep the kids entertained and offer accommodation for a trip to remember. 

If you want to enjoy a little adult time while you’re on holiday, why not look into the fantastic and convenient services available at a nanny or maternity nurse agency?  

Help your kids appreciate their country: What better way to instil a sense of national pride in your kids than to take them on family adventures to some of the nation’s most charming spots? Whether you’re into camping, beaches, sports or relaxing, a family holiday in the UK will give them fun filled memories of their homeland that they will treasure forever. 

Badr Naseem via Flickr

Badr Naseem via Flickr

BENEFITS OF FAMILY HOLIDAYS OVERSEAS

The weather: Let’s face it, the UK is notorious for bad weather so if you have your heart set on sun, sand and sparkling blue seas, it’s probably best to head to warmer countries such as Spain, Greece or Turkey. 

They are exciting: While family road trips are fun, there’s nothing quite as exciting as packing up your things and heading abroad! The UK is just a short flight away from an array of international destinations. If you’re willing to brave longer haul flights, countries such as Thailand and Malaysia are also wonderful family holiday destinations. 

Get your kids interested in culture: Experiencing different foods, languages and cultures can be hugely beneficial to helping your children grow and develop.  

There are some great deals on offer: While heading overseas may sound expensive, there are actually some incredible deals and offers to snap up. Package holidays are wonderfully easy and take the stress and hassle out of planning a vacation. All-inclusive resorts and hotels are also great value and will ensure you find the time to kick back, relax and enjoy your holiday. On such an affordable holiday, it’s easy to budget in taking a professional nanny along for that enhanced level of relaxation for all the family.

Just remember, the key to family holiday planning success is to think about the needs and circumstances of your family and choose a destination accordingly. Considering the ages of your kids, your budget and your interests are all important factors. 

Happy holidays!

This guest post was written for Take on the Road by Nannies Incorporated. To find out more about the company, visit their website here.

St Kitts: Caribbean Bread & Butter Pudding Recipe

photo2

If there’s one thing I love to do when I travel, it’s to learn about the local food and produce. Today on St Kitts, we did just that.

Fairview House is a former plantation that’s now been turned into a heritage museum and restaurant. As well as touring the beautiful grounds, the site plays host to a cooking demonstration outfit called Caribbean Cooks (sometimes also known as Island Flavours).

Run by British expat Janice Ryan who’s lived on the island for 26 years, it’s a wonderful place to get acquainted with the edible riches of St Kitts.

Janice’s demonstration included five different dishes: jerk pork loin, creole fish in tomato broth, island rice and peas, green banana escovitch and the recipe I’m going to share with you now…

photo1

Recipe: Caribbean Bread & Butter Pudding

This coconut and rum-infused take on bread and butter pudding is melt-in-your-mouth good, and the taste will stay with you for days.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of thick white bread, cubed
  • 1/2 cup of tinned coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup of thick cream
  • 1/4 cup of softened butter
  • 1/2 rum-soaked raisins

 

For the rum sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 golden rum

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or gas mark 4.
  2. Pop the cubed bread into an oven dish and set aside next to the hob.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the coconut milk, sugar, eggs, butter and cream until you have one smooth mixture.
  4. Pour the liquid mix over the bread until it’s covered, then sprinkle the grated coconut and rum raisins evenly on top.
  5. Place in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until the top is a light golden brown.
  6. While it’s baking, add the butter and sugar for the rum sauce into a hot frying pan.
  7. Keep over a low heat, and when it’s nice and warm, add the golden rum.
  8. Burn the alcohol off and add as a glaze to the top of the pudding when you remove it from the oven.
  9. Let the pudding cool down for a couple of hours, and then indulge!

 

For info on St Kitts, visit the tourism authority’s website here. For Fairview House and the Nirvana Restaurant, visit the website here.

Follow our adventures on Twitter @takeontheroad and on Instagram @LaurenRazavi.

St Kitts: History and folk crafts at the Wingfield Estate

SAM_6895

Today we visited the Wingfield Estate. It’s a place full of fascinating history and heritage that is slowly being excavated and then restored.

The Estate is like a storybook of the island’s past. It was the first working estate in the English-speaking Caribbean, and its initial crops were indigo dye and tobacco. Later, it produced cotton (which is very high quality in the West Indies) as a by-product of other crops.

SAM_6896

Rum was also produced on-site, and the Estate boats the oldest remaining rum distillery in the whole of the West Indies. It dates back to 1673!

Estate slaves, soldiers at Brimstone Hill and Royal Navy sailors were all allowed a ration of rum. Historically, rum was often the product that covered the estate’s entire annual operating costs.

SAM_7002

After a tour around the site with the owner, we headed to the Caribelle Batik workshop on-site. Beatik is a traditional folk craft on St Kitts, and after watching a demonstration, we tried our hand wax-printing and dying some material.

SAM_6947

SAM_6951

SAM_6952

SAM_6961

SAM_6964

SAM_6967

The results of our artistic experimentation weren’t bad, though I’m sad to say that Jesse’s linen came out a lot better than mine…

SAM_6973SAM_6978SAM_6981SAM_6984SAM_6997For info on St Kitts, visit the tourism authority’s website here. For the Wingfield Estate and Caribelle Batik, visit the website here.

Follow our adventures on Twitter @takeontheroad and on Instagram @LaurenRazavi.

Accor Launches Bangkok Super Saver Hotel Campaign

For all travelers coming to Bangkok within the next few months and are currently searching for hotel bookings, look no further.  Accor has officially launched the ‘Bangkok Super Saver’ hotel campaign which features room bookings at a very special rate (inclusive of free breakfast). But book fast; this deal is an exclusive offer for all bookings made during 24th April – 24th May 2014. All bookings are for stays during April until 30th September 2014.

There are a multitude of participating hotels in Bangkok which includes: Sofitel So Bangkok, Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit, Pullman Bangkok King Power, Hotel Muse Bangkok Langsuan, Grand Mercure Bangkok Asoke Residence, Novotel Bangkok Platinum Pratunam, Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Mercure Bangkok Siam and ibis Bangkok Siam.

Customers who are already members of the Accor Advantage Plus could go ahead to place your booking and enjoy an additional 10% off the Bangkok Super Saver rate. Members of Le Club Accor hotels, Accor’s free Loyalty program will earn triple points on their stay. Non Le Club members can head over to Le Club website to sign-up.

Room rates during this period start from as little as USD $27 per room per night.

If you don’t know who Accor is, they are one of the leading hotel operators and leader in Europe having established nearly 45 years of hotel expertise. Currently, hotels under their brand are present in 92 countries with over 3,500 hotels.

bkk-super-saver2
LogoAccorhotelscom

Kitchen Favourites: Chef’n Cookie Stamp

I love making cookies but I have to admit it: I’m a bit of a lazy baker when it comes to making anything fancy!

So when I tried the Chef’n cookie stamp, I was delighted with the results. It’s an idiot-proof cookie cutter with a difference, and excellent design.

IMG_6546

An easy to follow recipe comes with it in the box, and following the recipe gives great results. I’ve also used my old tried and trusted cookie recipe and it worked wonderfully well.

IMG_6547

It’s so easy to use and keep clean and the all in one storage idea is fab (no lost parts – always a problem in my kitchen).
IMG_6549

The patterns it makes are so clear and with no distortion. The dough doesn’t get all stuck up on any of the parts, as with previous stamps/cutters I’ve tried.  In fact you can just go on stamping and stamping!

 

It’s so easy to change the heads and push the “stamping button”. I couldn’t pull my 8-year-old niece away from the kitchen: it’s a godsend for entertaining the kiddies too.

IMG_6551

I would definitely recommend this as a cool addition to any baker’s cupboard. Buy yours here.

IMG_6553

 

Foodie Round Up for January

In the post-Christmas haze of January life, it’s easy to succumb to those New Year blues, especially when it comes to food and drink. After such indulgence over Christmas, you’re stuck between disappointment and guilt, and actually, it’s enough to make your head spin if you think about it too much…

Here are three of my new favourite products to buck up the first month of 2014. They offer just the right combined levels of health and yum to keep you smiling and moving.

Image borrowed from the fantastic london-attached.com

Alma de Cuba Coffee

I’m salivating just thinking about Alma de Cuba coffee. Strong, rich and fragrant are each an understatement in terms of how awesome their blends of fresh bean really are. If you’re a casual coffee drinker, Alma de Cuba is enough to turn you into an aficionado. If coffee already makes up an important part of your day, prepare to enjoy this coffee like you’ve never enjoyed a drink before. You need this coffee in your life. Order here.

low res crostini

Crostini by Crosta & Mollica

Crosta & Mollica is a brand taking the world by storm, and popping up in more and more shops across the nation. For good reason. Their exquisite flavours of Italy make the perfect snack, starter, treat or meal staple. Their Crostini are divine little crispy bread treats. Grab yourself some at Waitrose now.

nuts

Liberation Nuts

Fairtrade, ethical and delicious, the latest range from Liberation Nuts is just as delectable and appealing as the work the company does. Their seasonal bags of mixed nuts and mixed nuts with dried fruit at the perfect tasty yet healthy snack to help you in your journey away from the beers, mince pies and chocolate feasts of Christmas. Om nom nom. Find out more about Liberation Foods here.

Canary Tourism | UK BLOG

Hot for 2014: The Canary Islands
 
When British wintertime comes, island hopping somewhere warm and beautiful is the stuff office daydreams are made of. While consider up in thermal jumpers and patterned bed socks, I've been gazing off into the distance and thinking about the Canary Islands, which have quickly jumped to the top of my travel 'to do' list for 2014.
 
As well as gorgeous sunny weather paired with 22 degree heat, the Canary Islands are a pretty unique find. In December and January, their vibrant beaches become adorned with towering and sculptures, some of them measuring up to four metres in height. At Christmas time, majestic, enormous and impressive nativity scenes are displayed in the sand, most of them created by acclaimed sculptors from all over the world.
 
Personally, the intrigue of the sand sculptures is appeal enough for me to want to hop on a plane immediately, but there's lots more on offer too. There's all the usual ample travellers' offerings to take advantage of: amazing gastronomy, a unique island culture, and breathtaking views.
 
Setting the islands apart is a loyalty to the environment, interesting especially for ecotourism aficionados. Four national parks, world heritage zones and biosphere reserves combine to make this a formidable destination for those stunned by nature and preservation at their best. 
 
Check out all this and much more in the dazzling video below, which showcases this paradise in visual form.
 

 

Christmas in the Canary Islands? What a dream that would be. Just close your eyes and imagine this for a moment: sipping cocktails in a beach, napping during the afternoon in the comfort of a hammock, and enjoying the culinary treats of the island. It would certainly make for a very different holiday season, but certainly a great one.

Sponsored Post

Recipe: Chocolate Tiffin (Fridge Cake)

Tiffin

Gooey, nutty, fruity and chocolately…chocolate tiffin is surely the ultimate naughty treat. Here’s my take on the no-bake classic. Beware though – the first piece you nibble easily turns to the second until one more becomes the whole tray. Oops!

This makes around 12 squares of tiffin.

225g/8oz plain chocolate
2 tbsp golden syrup
75g/3oz butter
100g/4oz currants
Approx. 8 plain digestive biscuits
Approx. 10 glacé cherries, quartered

  1. Line a 12 x 8″ (30 x 20cm) shallow baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Break the chocolate up and put it in a heatproof bowl with the syrup and butter.
  3. Place the bowl over a half-pan of water. Make sure the bowl isn’t actually touching the water, and heat slowly to melt the ingredients together.
  4. Put the biscuits in a strong polythene bag sealed at the top and place on a wooden chopping board. Then hit with a rolling pin until they become crumbs.
  5. Stir the crumbs, currants and quartered glacé cherries into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Spoon the mixture onto the baking tray and level using a spoon or knife.
  7. Place in the fridge for at least two hours.
  8. Slice and serve!

Follow Lynne Razavi on Instagram here.

Recipe: Moist American Chocolate Cake

Delicious Chocolate Cake

This succulent chocolate cake is based on a recipe I picked up during my stint living in America. My lovely neighbour Barbara was an amazing baker, always willing to share and exchange kitchen tips! This quick-fire recipe whips up an incredibly moist cake that goes perfectly with a generous helping of double cream…

8oz plain flour
12.5oz caster sugar
3oz cocoa powder
1.5 oz baking powder
2 eggs
9fl oz milk
4.5 oz vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
9fl oz boiling water

  1. Preheat your oven 180C/Gas mark 4.
  2. Grease a 10 inch cake tin. I like the ones with the false bottoms – they make the job of retrieving your cake after baking that much easier.
  3. Leaving aside the boiling water for a moment, combine all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Using a wooden spoon or electric whisk beat the mixture until smooth.
  5. Add the boiling water slowly and continue to mix until smooth once again. The mix should be a runny but quite thick.
  6. Pour into the tin and bake for 25-35 mins or until a skewer comes out of the middle clean.
  7. After cooling, pop it onto a plate, slice and serve with vanilla ice cream or custard with lashings of cream. Yum!

1 2 3 14