Archive for October 2016

BOO!! It’s Halloween!

The last time we were in London, England in October, darned if we didn’t see Halloween stuff all over the place! I couldn’t believe it.  One afternoon we saw people in costumes heading into some kind of afternoon event not far from the Victoria and Albert Museum. I think it’s safe to say it was a Halloween party!  I have read how much the Brits like fancy dress!

DSCN3366 nx2I thought that we would miss out on Halloween as we would barely be home before the 31st but I wasn’t disappointed thanks to the Londoners!

In October 2015 we were absolutely blown away to see Halloween decorations all over the place in Rome. We thought they celebrated this time of the year on November 1st and 2nd, being, respectively, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

After doing a little “Halloween research” it seems that “guising” or “trick-or-treating,” where children dress up in costume and go house to house, has been going on for a very long time in countries like England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I love this: sometimes in Ireland the children are given pancakes or colcannon? What no candy? Colcannon is a potato-cabbage mixture! The Scots used to carve out turnips but once the people in North America began carving native pumpkins (a lot easier to carve), well you know the rest! Looks like people who immigrated to North America in the 19th century “borrowed directly” or “adapted” their Halloween traditions from other countries and they had a big impact on how it’s observed.  Undoubtedly, we probably created the “commercial” aspect to the end of harvest, beginning of winter celebrations. Trust us!

No tricks from me!  Here’s a link to a Halloween Treat for you!  Halloween Nanaimo Bars. 

DSCN0752 nx2 ver1I have especially fond memories of this “celebration.” Growing up in the 1950’s and ’60’s we were very lucky. Our parents did not give a thought to us little “hooligans” leaving the house as soon as it got dark and then spending the next 3 hours running from house to house filling our bags with goodies! There were always older kids who would tell us that Mrs. so and so was handing out toffee apples or popcorn balls but I am pretty sure it was a scam because whenever we went to the house in question, there was nothing like that available!

When we finally returned home, mom had brewed up some hot chocolate and sometimes there were hot dogs and we all sat out on our front porch to watch dad set off our fireworks (his favourite was “The Little Red School House”). We all thought it was kind of boring. What we liked were the rockets…they would shoot up different coloured plumes that would explode in the sky, cool! Some of the neighbours would be setting off their fireworks as well, it was great fun and best of all we got to stay up later than usual!

Now here’s the best part (my Halloween Playlist)!  Just wait for the ads to finish!

Happy Halloween Tutti!

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Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Over last weekend we were sitting by our little antique electric fireplace with its glowing glass “coals” reminiscing, sipping wine and reading the entries in my Rome journal from last October.  We spent our Thanksgiving  there wandering the Jewish Ghetto and having lunch at Da Giggetto.  Quite honestly, we are missing being there so much.

dsc_3220-nx2This year we chose to cook an Italian inspired Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us:

  • Butternut squash gnocchi with browned sage butter
  • Turkey “roulade” with a cremini/porcini mushroom filling and a pan sauce with marsala, shallots, turkey stock bit of fresh rosemary
  • Dessert: my mom’s famous pumpkin pie. 

This is rather unusual for us because we so enjoy sharing great food, wonderful wine and stories with friends.  Dinner was delicious as was the wine but missing were happy faces around our table.

The past year has brought with it the expected wait for my knee replacement surgery…was hoping it would take place at the end of October or the beginning of November…not that I’m chomping at the bit to go through it and not that Joe can hardly wait to look after stuff when I’m unable to but…we have tentatively planned a trip back to Italy with the good friends who insisted we accompany them there in 2007.  And we are forever grateful that they did!  Since that first trip we’ve been fortunate in being able to return to Italy on numerous occasions but also to spend two vacations in London, England.  Although we are lying low until after my surgery, it was fun helping my sister with some ideas for their visit to London.  I can hardly wait to hear more about their visit there.

dscn9962-nx2One of the funny things that came along on Facebook just last week was My Most Used Words on Facebook!  Of course “Oracibo” was there along with tomatoes and recipes…but what I didn’t see was pointed out by my friend Elatia, “knee.”  OMG…I told her I was going to refrain from using that word!  But it does tell me how focused I am on the surgery and rehab!

Since I had a serious bout with pain in April and May (alleviated by cortisone steroid injections), my world has kind of shrunk!  I couldn’t even walk across the street to pick up a container of yogurt!  Now, though, fingers crossed, I’m back doing my pool exercises and walking a few blocks.  Woo hoo for small things.  Gee…maybe I’ll even be able to take the bus somewhere by myself!  I hope this holding pattern lasts until the surgery!

An unexpected challenge has been getting myself to focus on writing posts for my blog.  I’ve no idea why, except life getting in the way.  No trips, not much entertaining, not seeing friends as much as usual, no new adventures and not enough laughter!  And hanging over our little heads is the possibility that we may have sold our strata building to a developer, meaning we might have to move sometime in the spring. We’ve lived here for 31 years and have shared friendship and love and laughter with another couple in our building.  There are so many memories!

One of the very best things to have happened are the new friendships with people in Rome…they are unexpected and something to be treasured.  If only we weren’t so far away from each other!  If I close my eyes I can see us all sitting at a big table, sipping wine, nibbling tasty treats and laughing ourselves silly!

Another best thing that happened late last year was the re-connection with a long-lost friend.  We had been friends since 1985 but drifted apart for some years…then from out of the blue he phoned us.  We were absolutely delighted in being able to re-establish our friendship.  .  Oh the times we had together over those years…the laughter, the silliness, the craziness, the love.  And it was still there.  However, a few months ago our friend phoned us from the hospital to say that he had just been diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer known as GBM.  He’s undergoing chemo and has been very unwell and unable to see us.  He has only been able to talk on the phone for a while.  When he is able we will see each other somehow, someway.

And so…reading through this post I’m thinking how blessed we are to have some terrific people in our lives.  And when it comes down to it…remembering, mindfully, how much we care for, love and value them all.  Salute to everyone!

I want to say a special thanks to my good friend and fellow blogger, Jo Wennerholm whose thoughts and words recently gave me a push to get writing again.

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A Canadian Thanksgiving

2008 was our first Thanksgiving away from home!   We had travelled to Italy with two friends and our plan was to celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking dinner in the “villa” near Lago Trasimeno in Umbria.

 

My husband and I had  grocery shopped in Tuscany and Umbria two years earlier and knew beforehand that Italians eat turkey but not the whole, roasted, browned beauties we were used to. What to do? Luckily, one of us spoke some French because the owner of the villa and his wife spoke no English, only Italian and French!  At that time my Italian was even more sketchy than it is now and it’s not wonderful now! So we fumbled along with the French using lots of  hand  signals somehow getting the message across that we wanted to buy a fresh whole turkey. He said he “had a friend” who he could get one for from.

Sure enough, the day before Thanksgiving, Giorgio appears with promised turkey! It looked great, weighed about 18 pounds and seemed perfect, with all the giblets intact for making gravy. Mille grazie Giorgio! How much do we owe you? Without blinking, Giorgio said 90€! We four were a little taken aback at the cost but heck…we are celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy! By the way 90€ at that time equaled approximately $130.00! (This included 15€ delivery charge). It better be damned good!

On Thanksgiving Day the guys got wood burning outdoor oven lessons from Giorgio.  I made stock from the neck, gizzards and other bits which ultimately became a lovely gravy. The bread stuffing was made from local pears that were given to us, Italian sausage and a few fennel seeds, all piled into into a greased dish and into the wood burning oven it went.  (Link to recipe below).

We all agreed…this is the best damned turkey any of us had ever eaten!

Even though we were in Rome last year at Thanksgiving, spent time wandering around the Jewish Ghetto, ate lunch at Da Giggetto, that turkey dinner in Umbria was a hard act to follow!  Ah…memories.

To make the turkey stuffing, please see Italian Sausage, Bread Stuffing With Pears.

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