Chocolate, the happiness of Easter

31 03 2011

Readers, the time is almost here! In less than a month it will be Easter!

In Italy this day has great religious significance, but there are also many traditions not related to our catholic religion. The most important custom involves colourfully decorated chocolate Easter eggs with a small surprise hidden inside. Even if many people, from little kids to old men, buy Easter eggs just to break them open with a knee strike or, for the most self-injurious ones, with their head, personally I buy eggs for one reason only – to eat them!

Let me take this opportunity to tell you why I love chocolate and illustrate to you some of its benefits, which you may not know of. My objective today is to erase all your fears about eating chocolate. Never again will you think of it as a horrible, tempting monster! Above all, this article is to convince you that when you eat a bar of dark chocolate or when you have a cup of hot chocolatey goodness, all you have to do is relax and enjoy that magic moment.

There is no doubt, of course, that chocolate is a high fat food (40 grams of dark chocolate contains 210 calories and 13 grams of fat) so if you take it in large quantities, it would not be good for your health. But actually, I can’t think of anything you can consume in large amounts without it having a bad effect on you.

There is growing evidence that, in small quantities, some kinds of chocolate may actually be good for you. Dark chocolate is naturally rich in flavanoids, antioxidants that prevent heart diseases. Moreover, chocolate can have also positive effects on your brain: Chocolate actually activates the same part of your brain as certain opiates, such as heroin or morphine, do. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, or PEA, which is an amphetamine-like chemical. PEA is a neurotransmitter that has psychoactive effects on an individual. It is even richer in theobromine, which has an uplifting and stimulating effect on the mind, as well as a chemical structure similar to caffeine.

Studies have shown that while people are eating chocolate, their blood flows to certain areas of the brain, such as the frontal cortex and the midbrain, areas which are activated by some drugs. That’s the reason why, in many cases, psychologists suggest that patients who want to give up smoking or taking drugs should consume chocolate regularly. Apparently, while people are eating chocolate, they are rewarded by feelings of pleasure that are generated by specific parts of the brain that are activated.

I hope that by reading this article you have learnt new, positive things about chocolate. Be careful, though – I’m not suggesting that this Easter you can cram your mouth with mountains of chocolate! Consume it responsibly and in moderation, but please DO enjoy eating chocolate!

by Alberto





A special event: New Year’s Eve

15 02 2011

The night of 31st December is New Year’s Eve.

Last year I went to my grandparents’ house and I helped in the kitchen. I ate a lot of good food and watched fireworks. At dinner we ate lentils (but I hate them) to bring money in the new year.

We stayed together all night. At midnight, we watched the fireworks and we wished each other “Happy New Year!”

We had an incredible night.

by Alessia, 12 years old (practicing past simple)





Paris: one of the best cities on Christmas Day

20 12 2010


photo from BBC news

Paris is the capital of France and it’s one of the best cities I’ve ever visited for the Christmas holidays. Along the streets, there are a lot of fairy lights and small Christmas trees. Everything is decorated with lights and baubles. Paris has a lot of Christmas spirit and everyone is very happy around this time. One of the best places that is completely decorated is the Arc de Triomphe – it’s brightly illuminated and on the streets around it the trees are full of lights and baubles. Sometimes in Paris it snows and everything is completely covered by the snow. It seems like Father Christmas’ house. At Christmas you can also eat a lot of food like turkey, Christmas cake and mince pies. I think Christmas time, not only in Paris but all around the world, is the best period for peoples’ morale, especially for children who believe in Father Christmas and receive a lot of big presents!

by Federico, upper intermediate





Christmas

20 12 2010

by Anna

For Christmas I would like all people to become better. On Christmas day everyone stays with their family and relatives to eat a lot and exchange presents. On Christmas day I normally stay in my house in Paris with my family and friends. I like Paris during this period because there are a lot of fairy lights, snow and Christmas spirit.

image from fanpop





Kris Kringle Cookies

15 12 2010

This simple Christmas sugar cookie recipe produces rich-tasting, delicious treats that are perfect for eating or gift giving.

Ingredients:

225g butter
2½  cups sugar
3 eggs
5½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons cream
2 tablespoons milk
1½ teaspoons baking soda

Mix the butter, sugar, and eggs and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Sift together the flour and cream.

Add a small portion of these sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture, making a smooth batter (i.e. mixture).

Dissolve the baking soda in the milk, then add it to the batter mixture.

Add the remainder of the flour, making a soft dough.
Roll the dough thin and cut it into fancy shapes.

Sprinkle with coloured sugar and bake for about 7 minutes at 230°C.

by Johara





Christmas holidays

15 12 2010

by Gavino

Surely Christmas is the perfect time to forget all of life’s problems and pack your bags for a wonderful Christmas holiday to re-charge your batteries?

There are many Christmas destinations to choose from, including cold destinations and hot destinations. In particular, the most requested places are the mountains of central Europe and hot countries in Africa and South America.


COLD PLACES

Italy and France  are visited every Christmas by millions of people who are attracted by the big ski stations in the Alps. Places like Cortina d’Ampezzo and Courmayer have all the comforts you need, including sport, leisure centres, shops and in the end a lot of fun!In these cities there are some very organised ski stations that are very popular, where you can see a lot of famous skiers.Moreover, these places have a really active night life, so if you’re looking for fun, these places are perfect!


HOT PLACES

If you don’t like the cold of the snow and the freezing wind of the mountains, you can address your holiday to hot destinations like Sharm El Sheik, Capo Verde or even Honolulu or Santo Domingo. In these places, the situation is completely different: you can spend your days lying on beautiful beaches enjoying a warm breeze, or you can use the fantastic swimming pool facilities in the luxurious hotels that are avaliable. There is also a great night life in these locations and you can make a lot of friends.

So,this is what most people choose… What about you? Where will you go this Christmas?