September 26, 2017

Digital Invites Make Party Planning Easy

Kids' Birthday Parties. They're fun, but boy, can they be a lot of work.

Granted, parents today probably make Birthday Parties more complicated than they ever were, or than they ever have to be. This month we celebrated Madeline's 3rd Birthday. And it crept up on us so quickly, we weren't entirely ready. Other than booking a venue, I hadn't thought of loot bags, invites, decor.

Breathe.

It doesn't have to be so complicated.

And actually, thanks to PercyVites, it wasn't at all. PercyVites is a new digital invite tool that I was asked to try, and I thought, well, perfect timing! It takes minutes to create custom video invites for your occasion, and let me tell you, they were a hit! There are many themes to choose from, but we went with good ol' Paw Patrol! Here's a snippet of the invite our guests received.


Through the online dashboard, you're able to list your guests' names and their parents' email addresses, you can add a photo of your guest-of-honour and can track who has opened or replied to your invite. Each invite costs $0.79 cents and is delivered instantly! Save time, paper and postage.  You can even email out a personalized Thank You following the party and include some snaps taken during the fun. Guests and friends can download the video as a little memento, too. (I still need to do that, oops!)

And for those of us who are strapped even more for time, you can pick up Party Packs to accessorize with your invites. Included in the set: cups, plates, napkins, tablecloths, hats, loot bag essentials and a stuffy! This pack is from Unique Party Favors. 


Busy moms everywhere, rejoice! The only thing you need to do is buy a cake, some candles and enjoy the party! Party complete.



Disclaimer: I received a PercyVites Invite Package for free in order to write this post. All opinions expressed on Simply Suppa are my own.

September 20, 2017

5th Anniversary -- After Breast Cancer


Cue the Pink. October is Breast Cancer Month in Canada. And it's time to get ready.

As many of you know, I volunteer significant hours of my time with the Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure. I've been helping to organize the Woodbridge/Vaughan event for a few years now. When it comes to raising awareness and beating this awful disease called Breast Cancer, it's the least I can do. After all, the new numbers say 1 in 8 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. And that totally sucks. (PS - Our event is October 1, Nation-wide)

In addition to the Run, I've also leant my time and support to another event I love -- the CIBC Celebration of Hope Luncheon, in support of the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation. I've been hosting and producing the television broadcast of this event for years, and it has a special place in my heart. Last year, I was also surprised and honoured by receiving the annual Hope Award for helping to raise awareness. While organizers are taking a hiatus from the event this year, I look forward to attending in 2018.


Events like these not only help raise funds and awareness but they're a chance to honour and celebrate those who are currently affected by breast cancer and others who have gone through treatment.

This weekend, I'm looking forward to attending the after BREAST CANCER (ABC) Luncheon in Vaughan. This is the 5th anniversary of the Pink Diamond Gala and organizers are rolling out the pink carpet for the event, created for the sole purpose of assisting survivors.  To date, after BREAST CANCER has been able to support over 350 women and men, but there’s still many to be aided on an on-going basis.  

On September 24th, gala attendees will enjoy Cocktails, Hors D'oeuvres Reception, Lunch, Refreshments, Silent Auction, exciting Prizes to be won and more. The event also includes an all-star cast of supporters, panelists and live entertainment headlined by Juno-Award winner, JULLY BLACK. The event takes place at Riviera Parque Banquet Hall from 11:30-4:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $85 to $250 for VIP, or tables can be purchased as well. To buy tickets, you can visit the website.

September 18, 2017

Making a Wave in Vaughan

If you've been reading my blog, by now, you know that 
a) I try and support my community and community events as much as I can, and
b) I am a believer in pledging support to various causes. There is not one cause more important than another. If you can't financially support, try and lend a hand, volunteer, spread the message, share the importance. It's all part of the mission and the goal. Quite often, in addition to a financial goal, the true meaning of charitable events is awareness.

I've been heavily involved in the CIBC Run for the Cure for the last 7 years, volunteering my time as a Run Director. It's a huge commitment and I'm happy to continue to help as much, and as long as I can. But I also see the need to help other causes and events.


Earlier this year, I met the generous local women who created the Waves of Changes for Autism charity gala. After a hugely successful first gala last year, the organizers are looking forward to the 2nd annual, happening on Thursday, September 28 in Vaughan.

The latest stats say 1 in 68 children are on the Autism Spectrum, and if you know someone who has a child with Autism, the government funding is not enough. The Waves of Changes for Autism provides an opportunity for guests and the community to demonstrate the much-needed support to kids under the age of 13 affected by autism. Funds raised from the Gala help provide financial assistance towards programs for Vaughan families affected with ASD and other neurodevelopment delays.

“Our inaugural Gala surpassed expectations providing assistance to more than 30 families. Our goal is to once again raise $100,000 so we can continue to support families struggling with the very real costs associated with ASD,” said Ellen Contardi, Founder and Chair of Waves of Changes for Autism. “We are grateful to cause some waves for this important cause."

While tickets for this year's gala are already sold out, if you would like to be considered for this funding, families are encouraged to visit the website to complete the online application for funding. Applications are open from October 1 through December 31, 2017. And of course, donations are always accepted. Get in touch with organizers to secure your donation.

Together, we can help make a wave!

September 08, 2017

Win Tickets to The Baby Show in Toronto #contest


The Baby Show is coming and I'm excited! No, we're not expecting our third -- although I've been asked that question a hundred times this year. But I get to go with my sister who's expecting! I'm going to be an Auntie! Or a Zia! I haven't decided yet...but either way, I'm pumped!

There is so much to see at The Baby Show and I can't wait to show my sister all the cool stuff she needs to get for herself and baby. I get to have all the fun without all the pressure and nerves, cause, well, been there done that.

This year's show takes place Saturday, September 23 and Sunday, Sept 24 at Enercare Centre, Hall D, at Exhibition Place. Tickets are $15 online and at the door, or you can WIN your tickets through Simply Suppa!

So, what will you see at The Baby Show?
  • Over 160 local and national retailers
  • Expert Highlights and workshops including Dr. Jack Newman (doc, author and breastfeeding guru), Margaret Wallis-Duffy (baby massage), Dr. Paul Roumeliotis (author, Baby Comes Home), Dr. Sarah Mickeler (pre and post-natal chiropractic care), and Angela Grant Buechner (RN, LC and Doula)
  • New products, demos, the latest gear and gadgets
  • Etsy Junior Area with tons of homemade products
  • Safety Info, Massage Techniques, Diapering and 3D Ultrasounds
  • and a whole lot more....

I'm not going to lie, it can be overwhelming. But it's also a lot of fun. Best thing to do is to plan your trip: wear comfy clothes and shoes, pack a snack and water bottle and bring a support person to help answer questions or weigh in on some, too. Ask questions if you have any -- there are experts everywhere -- and most of all, have fun! 

To WIN tickets to The Baby Show, follow me on Instagram, find The Baby Show Post and tag your "person". I'll announce the winners next week!



September 02, 2017

Why Skechers are our Back to School Fave #backtoschool


We've made it to the last long weekend before school starts again for the kiddies. I pride myself on being hyper crazy organized when it comes time to back to school -- I ordered uniform items in July, her drawers were cleared out weeks ago, school and lunch bag in check. But I forgot something major: Indoor shoes! Crap! How could I forget to buy indoor shoes?!

I'm likely not the only parent out there who's running around town today picking up some last minute items. Only for me, I'm not panicked at all. I know exactly what kind of indoor shoes I'll be getting for Isabelle -- Skechers. I got Isabelle her first pair of Skechers last year before school started, and they are her favourite shoes. Not even kidding. They're too small and still her ultimate go-to. 

Thanks to a few partnerships with Skechers, our family has become slightly obsessed and addicted to the brand. And here are a few reasons why:

Comfort Level: Skechers are by far some of the most comfortable shoes I own. Nearly every pair is equipped with a memory-foam sole, ensuring you're getting a pillowy soft step every single time. Some shoes fit wider than others, so take note of that, but in terms of protecting your feet with every step, Skechers are ideal. When we went to Disney in the spring, we all wore our Skechers. Long, hot days. Lots of walking. And while we were exhausted, our feet were just fine.
They look good. Skechers have come a long way in the style dept. I bought my first pair of Skechers about 20 years ago -- they were like a slip on mule sneaker. They were so great, I bought a second pair. But they weren't the nicest looking. Flash forward and the sneakers today rival some top designers, only, you know you're going to get that comfort factor, as explained above! I just love these embroidered sneakers on the right -- perfect for the style-conscious person who wants comfort, too. I totally want these. On my list for fall for sure. Interestingly enough, the vintage retro Skechers from the 90s is actually a major trend. I refuse to wear them though, because, hey, been there done that. And since when is 90s vintage!? Still pretty neat, though, that kids are wearing -- and liking! -- the same shoes we did. 

They Light Up. Obviously, mom. Both my girls love their light-up shoes. Some Skechers styles twinkle, they sparkle, they flash and they glow. Super cool are the S-Lights collection, designed for boys, but girls can totally wear them too. They come in all different colours, high-top and low and have a power button to activate the light. 
Breathable. One of the biggest trends for Skechers this year is the knit woven fabric on some of their sneakers. And it's one of my faves. I'm not a fan of big, heavy clonkers on my feet and the woven fabric shoes makes them stretchy, soft, easy to put on and breathable. 

I would still caution people to wear socks or sockettes, though, because while your feet may stay cool, they can still get a bit stinky, depending on how active you are.













Mini Me. I recently discovered some of the kids styles are exactly miniature replicas of the adult ones. And I think that is so cute! The girls recently got their own pair of knit high tops and I have the exact same pair. The kids' ones are equipped with a side zip for ease, and while the colours are different -- mine are turquoise and theirs are blue -- they get a kick (no pun intended!) when they wear the same shoes as mommy. And if that means getting out of the house just a tad bit earlier, I'm all for it! 


Charitable. This year I got my first pair of BOBS. They are the ultimate in slip-on comfort. There are many different styles of BOBS out today, but the selling feature of BOBS (on top style, ease of wear and comfort) is the charitable aspect. Skechers donates a pair of shoes to a child in need around the world with every BOBS purchase. To date, more than 14 million pairs of shoes have been donated. 
So when it comes to buying Isabelle back to school shoes today, the debate won't be which brand I buy, but which style. I just know she's going to want every pair she sees. And I don't blame her. Wish me luck!



August 29, 2017

My Giardiniera "Recipe"


One of my favourite all-time snacks has got to be Italian Giardiniera. I grew up with the crispy, vinegary veggie preserve, quite often eating it directly out of a bowl, without any bread or accompaniment. Still to this day, in fact. 

Giardiniera can be made many different ways, with a variety of ingredients. It's typically made with a vinegar or oil base, and incorporates a bunch of different, seasonal vegetables. My grandmother often made her giardiniera with a medley of cauliflower, celery, carrot and hot or sweet banana peppers. Of course, she often put chunks of hot chilli pepper in there as well. But that's totally optional. In fact, a few years, she made a mild batch for me, and a hot batch for Donny.

A few years ago, I decided to start making my own. Every so often, people ask me for my recipe.

Here's the thing -- no recipe. Come on, you know me.

The good news is, for the last few years, every single batch of giardiniera turns out well. So here's' my advice: read a bunch of recipes online, find some commonalities, and make your own.

Here's a basic guideline:


  • Vinegar to Water ratio -- last year, we did a 2:1 white pickling vinegar to water ratio and it was sooooo vinegary. My husband loved it, but it was a bit much for me. Especially eating as a snack. This year, not only did I switch to Apple Cider Vinegar as per my mom's batch in 2016, I adjusted my ratio to equal parts vinegar and water. Whichever you use, you'll need about 5L of boiled liquid. As it comes to a boil, shut off the heat and it's ready to use. (5L will yield about 16 500ml jars)
  • Salt. You need salt. It's a preservative after all, and a natural one at that. Salt and vinegar are the only preservatives I use in my giardiniera. I put about a tbsp in each 500 ml jar.
  • Veggies -- Go for FRESH. Farm fresh if you can, and make it as soon as possible. I typically use one head of cauliflower chopped, about 20 carrots, peeled and chopped, one full stalk (bunch) of chopped celery, 10-15 sweet banana peppers, cut in chunks or rings. Last year, I was able to find pearl onions at the farm (cipolline), but this year they didn't have them yet. So instead, I sliced fresh onion, green beans and even added some crushed Ontario garlic. I only added onion and garlic to some of the jars cause that's an experiment! The chopping is also a great time to get the kids involved. We have a blunt chopper and the kids love to help.
  • To blanch or not to blanch? Again, up to you. I don't blanch my veggies. I don't have time. But many recipes suggest blanching. I prefer my veggies stay crispy.
  • Technique -- many recipes suggest you prep all the ingredients, toss into a bowl to mix and then add them to the jars. The result is a colourful array of veggies. This year, I opted to stack my veg, filling every little crevice before adding my liquid.

And so, a step-by-step guideline for a delicious giardiniera:
  1. Prep and chop all veggies. Mix into one large bowl or keep separate. Up to you.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of pickling salt to each 500ml jar. If you're using a bigger jar, use a bit more.
  3. Add veggies to the jars.
  4. Top with hot vinegar water liquid.
  5. Immediately seal with lid and ring. 
  6. When the jars are cool enough to handle, carefully place in a large pot full of water. Add tea towels to the pot to prevent shaking and breaking.
  7. Boil jars for 20 mins.
  8. Store in a cold cellar or pantry. Giardiniera will be ready in a couple of months. Once you open a jar, enjoy straight up, on crunchy bread, in a salad, in a sandwich or as a side. Some people add oil and other herbs, but we like it au natural. Once opened, refrigerate. Or consume the entire jar. That's what we do.

How do you make your giardiniera? I'd love to learn your technique!

August 20, 2017

I Made Something Yummy Today - Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers


When I see Zucchini Flowers on a menu, I'm often intrigued to try them. While this delicate, soft blossom has been used and enjoyed for many years (Italians have been preparing Pitelle/Pitticelle, as they're known, for ages), I only tried zucchini flowers for the first time a few years ago.

They are somewhat of a delicacy; zucchini flowers are very fragile and tender, and only available for a short harvest. They're special.

Of course, when I saw them today at our local farmer's market, I wanted to try making them. 

There are many recipes for making fried zucchini flowers, or traditional pitelle. My grandmother makes a pancake-like fritter, chopped with herbs and dipped in egg and flour. Others stuff them. Some coat them in egg whites and sparkling water. 

I read a few recipes and naturally, made my own.

Lemon Ricotta Zucchini Flowers

You will need: 

24 fresh zucchini flowers
1 1/4 cup flour
1 bottle beer - I used a Blonde Lager
1 cup ricotta
1 lemon
Grapeseed Oil/Vegetable Oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp Pink Himalayan Salt

Instructions:

Gently wash zucchini flowers, peel petals back carefully and remove the stamen or pistol. Cut stem and set flowers aside to dry. To make stuffing, combine ricotta and the juice of 1/2 lemon, along with the zest of the entire lemon. Sprinkle with black pepper. Mix well and add about 1 tsp of the mix to each zucchini flower. (Ensure the flowers are completely dry before stuffing) 

If you don't want to stuff, move directly to batter. (The unstuffed flowers are equally yummy, and just a bit lighter)

lemon ricotta zucchini flowers

To make the batter, whisk the flour, salt and one bottle of beer. I used a blonde lager. Whisk until all the lumps are removed and the batter is smooth, yet still bubbly. 

Coat the bottom of a pan with 2-3 inches of oil. I use a grapeseed oil as it has a very light flavour and a high burning point. Ensure the oil is very hot.

Gently dip each stuffed flower into the batter, allowing it to drip, before carefully placing into the hot oil. Cook 3-4 flowers at once, being mindful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes. 

Remove and rest on paper towel to absorb any additional oil. 

The outside will be hot and crispy, yet light, and the flower will serve as a silky cushion for the tangy, creamy ricotta filling.

Enjoy immediately. And don't forget to share.

fried pitelle

Do you make fried zucchini flowers? Share your recipe!