Despite a few snowflakes in the air and beautiful Christmas window displays in town, I was a little late getting into the holiday spirit this year. But once I secured my little potted Christmas tree from a local nursery and adorned it with my memories of Christmases past, I began to feel festive. Add to that a huge dose of sappy holiday movies and I have even been caught humming a few carols around town. I have started the holiday baking, eight loaves of banana bread yesterday and a bunch of sugar cookies, but am now at a standstill because I am out of vanilla. Friends Gill and Adrian brought me a supply during the summer, but I used the last drops yesterday. Finding vanilla extract here is kind of like searching for Brigadoon–it rises out of the mists of the supermarket very very infrequently. I am undertaking to make my own from a recipe that I have sussed out online, and it seems an easy enough project…but it takes about two months for the vanilla beans to work their magic. Will keep you posted on that. In the meantime, I need a quick solution…
Last Sunday Janet and I (but really mostly Janet) hosted a small holiday drinks party. Janet was searching for a way to keep busy after Ken’s death and we both liked the idea of getting together with good friends to toast the holidays. Drinks parties aren’t really done here so we weren’t sure if our Italian invitees would come, but come they did. (Only a few of them were able to open my ecard invite, stymied by the english instructions to “click on the envelope” to read it. Janet followed up with phone calls once we realized the problem.)
We had about 20 guests, a nice mix of expats and Italians and everyone seemed to enjoy the food and the company. We made mostly finger foods that were more American and Australian than Italian and hoped that our Italian friends would try everything. They did and raved about all of the bite-sized quiches, meatballs, crab cakes and sausage rolls. I took a chance on making eggnog, which was a virtual unknown here, and that too was a big hit. Spiked with a Scottish whiskey it was thick and creamy with a nice dash of nutmeg. The only disconcerting thing was that the Italian egg yolks are so orange that you could see little specks in the drink. I stirred it vigorously and jealously guarded the list of ingredients until everyone had tried it and liked it!
This week will bring more baking and then next week is Christmas. I am spending my Christmas Eve with Anna’s family again at Polizano. She has asked me to bring the onion dip that I made for the party. It’s an Ina Garten recipe and is kind of reminiscent of the Lipton onion soup dip we used to roll out for Superbowl parties, but oh so much better! Christmas Day will again be spent with Marinella’s family and I am already mentally preparing for the three hour feeding frenzy. It’s an amazing lunch with tons of courses, all wonderful. Really looking forward to that! Christmas evening will be spent with Cinder Winifred who is still hanging in there, although sleeping most of the day. She did rouse herself for sugar cookie dough scraps the other day and cheerfully performed clean up duty.
I hope everyone has a safe and healthy holiday and that you are spending time with your loved ones.
Buon Natale!!! and Merry Christmas!!!!