‘Tis the Season…

10 Comments

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!!!!

My little Christmas tree...

My little Christmas tree…

My very first Italian Christmas tree from four years ago...it spends the off season in Marinella's garden

My very first Italian Christmas tree from four years ago…it spends the off season in Marinella’s garden

Sugar cookies for everyone...

Sugar cookies for everyone…

I was pretty proud of my crudité creation...

I was pretty proud of my crudité creation…

Desserts included Janet's famous mince pies

Desserts included Janet’s famous mince pies

IMG_2511

Hostess Janet with Anna who was a fan of the eggnog!

Andrea bravely sampling a crab cake... Si, polpa di granchio!

Andrea bravely sampling a crab cake… Si, polpa di granchio!

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10 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season…

  1. To our girl in Tuscany!

    We loved the book and thinking of you as we start our bottle of 2006 Asinone!!! Happy Christmas from David and Kirstien in the wet North East of England.

  2. Hi Guys!!! So great to hear from you!! Glad you enjoyed the book…. and the wine!! I will probably be tucking into some Asinone today too. It just seems right, it being Christmas and all! I hope you guys are going to come down again this summer…. prepare trunk space! love, Jen 🙂

  3. Merry Christmas to you. I love reading about all of your cooking and trying out new recipes which turn out better than our old standbys. Tonight Uncle Gary, Grandma and I went to Church and listened to beautiful music. We had a delicious steak dinner and watched a couple of Christmas movies. I’m looking forward to the family coming over Christmas afternoon. Take care and enjoy your life!
    Love, Aunt Krissie

  4. Thanks, Aunt Krissie! I want to say of all the wonderful things that have happened this year, reconnecting with you has been the best! Thank you for all of your support and encouragement! Enjoy the family and give everyone my love! Buon Natale!!!

  5. I hope you’re having a very Merry Christmas! I ordered your book from Amazon and it came in the mail Christmas Eve. I look forward to reading it. 🙂

  6. Hi Jennifer, I purchased your book and read it on New Years Day as I was down with a cold here in Colorado. Your book is wonderful and I really enjoyed it; then I found your blog and it is great to be able to put the faces to the characters in your book. I have been to Italy many times and to Montepuciano a few times. (Had a wonderful ragu at a restaurant there that I think was called Cantuccio.) And I was one of those touristas that bought lots of olive oil and pici pasta in one of the little stores up the hill a bit from the big gateway entrance. That was in January 2009, my last visit to Italy but it is still as fresh a memory as if it were last week. I hope to get back there sometime soon. Will keep an eye on your blog so keep writing!

  7. Hi Anita!! Thanks so much!!! I am glad you enjoyed the book and Montepulciano. It really is a special place. I hope you come back and visit again. Now you know all my favorite spots for shopping!! And thanks too for following along on the blog! Happy New Year!!! 🙂

  8. Jennifer, recently I spent some time catching up with Frances Mayes’ blog (yes, I am a big fan and have most of her books). She does a great job on her blog and, as you can imagine, has a very dedicated group of followers — of many nationalities it would appear. I am familiar with the sentiment among many in Tuscany about her first book (or simply “The Book” as I heard many Toscani refer to it (in disdain). But that was many years ago so I hope feelings have mellowed somewhat. In case you haven’t seen it you may want to check it out: http://www.francesmayesbooks.com. I know you are a foodie (as am I) and here is another Italian food blog I follow. They have a B&B in Italy and Deborah is a fine cook and blogger as well so I enjoy her postings: http://www.italianfoodforever.com.

    Enjoy!

  9. Hi Anita, thanks for the links. I too am a fan of Frances Mayes. Still cook a lot of her recipes from Under the Tuscan Sun. I loved the book and read it many many times before I moved here. I also have some of her other books.
    Will definitely check out the the italian food forever blog as well!

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