Catching up… long time no see!

January 30, 2011 at 22:11 | Posted in Christmas Project, Family | Leave a comment

Here I am, finally able to find some fruitful online time to update my ever-so-neglected blog!

Where can I start? What can I say?

My Christmas season was as busy as ever: the Friday before Christmas we experienced quite the snowfall and the roads were not “driveable” that weekend, which translated in some very frantic last minute Christmas shopping.
Even though the snow brings along major logistic problems and dangers, the landscape was amazingly transformed by the fluffy white coating: another amazing creation by the Lord!

Here is our building’s back yard covered in snow! It truly looks like a winter wonderland!

This was our Christmas tree in our living room, decorated by my Mom, with a back garden view. It was the very first time we had purchased a fake tree instead of a real one. It didn’t smell like a real tree, but the result was just as good!

Another snowy close-up!

My Christmas Project was a complete and utter SUCCESS!

I was able to purchase 9 beautiful clear glass jars, all fitted with a nice vacuum seal top, for just under $4,00 each at a local department store.

I was able to shortlist 4 kinds of cookies to fill the jars with and I did most of my baking the week before Christmas. I baked the last batch on Christmas Eve, just before leaving for our traditional Midnight Christmas service.
The cookies I prepared were: peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, lemon meltaways and midnight cookies.

After the jars were filled, I wrapped them in clear plastic with a white snowflake motif and I tied it up at the top with a nice and thick red sating ribbon. To finish them off, I attached a cardboard tag which I downloaded from Google Images from Gooseberry Patch which said “From the Kitchen of…”, looking very Christmassy. I also slipped a peppermint candy cane through each bow.


Here is the finished product! Sorry the image is blurred a bit…
The jars are sitting onto my great-grandmother’s wooden pantry furniture, which was given to my Mom for her wedding.

I will share all of the cookie recipes in later posts.

Christmas day was spent with family from my dad’s side: there were 18 of us, sitting around a rather long table!
We had a luscious Christmas lunch, with the start dish being my grandmother’s hand-made cappelletti: a kind of pasta with a meat filling, made entirely from scratch by my wonderful 83-year-old grandmother. 
We also had roast, potatoes, a variety of appetizers and panettone, the typical Italian Christmas dessert.
There was a huge gift exchange and we all had fun watching my 2-year-old cousin Greta trying to open her gifts, while at the same time keeping track of what everybody else was doing!
Since most of my Christmas day was spent helping in the kitchen, I hope to share a few more pictures once one of my uncles will pass his through…

Speaking of my precious cousin, she turned 2 on December 15th and I was asked to bake a cake for her birthday party.
I decided to bake a basic vanilla sponge cake, using a Swiss roll recipe, cover it with the lilac tinted fondant I purchased in London and maybe getting a few gumpaste flowers on as well. This was the end result:

 
Even though the writing was a little off-side, the end result looked quite nice and was appreciated by everyone, including the birthday girl, who kept asking for more “sugar flowers”…

I don’t know if you can spot it on the picture, but I did sprinkle some pink lustre dust to make it all glittery on top.
Making this cake was a very time-consuming job, but I hope to bake many more in the future, thus furthering my expertise at handling fondant and gumpaste.

Another great thing which came up during the holiday season was a new and interesting online tour and study course from Vision Forum called “Hazardous Journeys: Into The Amazon”. Doug Phillips is taking us to the deep Amazon forest to uncover some of the great mysteries of God’s wonderful creation: from plants to animals, to the lost tribes of this remote yet fascinating area of the world. Mr. Phillips’ wife, Beall, is also posting some interesting pictures, videos and blog entries letting us into the Amazon craft world. If you’d like to join Mr. Phillips on this hazardous but God-driven journey, you may do so here.

The greatest challenge so far in this journey to unexplored and stunning lands for me was to stay true to the belief of worshipping the creaTOR and not the creaTION.

Many blessings,
Alice

All Saints’ Day and a Cheesecake

November 1, 2010 at 20:29 | Posted in Family, Homemaking | 2 Comments

Today is November 1st, All Saints’ Day, and here in Italy it is both a national holiday and a holy day of obligation.
This means that all Christians are required to go to mass and celebrate the holy apostles and all saints, martyrs and confessors, all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world. We usually celebrate it together with All Souls’ Day, which is on November 2nd, and has the specific purpose of remembering the dearly departed.

Therefore, this morning my family and I went to mass with grandma, and then we took a couple of huge flower pots to our small parish’s cemetery, where all our beloved family members are resting. It is our custom to take fresh flowers to the cemetery, and it is really beautiful to see such a sad place full of color and joy. It may seem strange, but I have always enjoyed going to the cemetery and pay my respects to those who have passed on to be with the Lord and I have to credit both my grandmothers for that.

After arranging the flowers, we spent a few minutes in the chapel and prayed, before heading home and starting to prepare a huge lunch for all the family.

Grandma made her famous spinach roll, served with lots of grated parmesan cheese and melted butter. Then, she made a wonderful veal roast with potatoes and pumpkin. For dessert, we had some ice cream and a cheesecake I’ve made.

I would like to thank my dear sister in Christ Meredith for the cheesecake recipe: it turned out to be really really good and everybody commented on how tasty and creamy it was! Here is a quick shot of what’s left of it:

It was very nice to get together with all of my relatives on my dad’s side and I was especially delighted in seeing my sweet cousin Greta: she is turning two next month and is a real handful! However, we all have waited for her so much that we cannot have enough of her!

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On a different note, I would like to express some of my thoughts on Halloween and its dangers.

In Italy, we never used to celebrate Halloween, as traditionally it is connected to countries with a Celtic background and we already had All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. However, in the last few years the Halloween franchise has invaded my country as well, causing a sensation with parties, costumes, fake blood, zombies, you name it. 

Personally, I chose not to celebrate Halloween and stick to the more “conventional” (or should I say “respectful“?) All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. 
This is primarily because I see Halloween merely as a “feast” which promotes dressing up as zombies, relating to the occult, making fun of death and is starting to drive people away from paying a respectful and godly tribute to those who are no longer with us. All the towns in the area, big or small, have been adorned with posters promoting gruesome parties and zombie parades.  

Today, grandma asked a 15-year-old boy who was at church what he did the previous day and he proudly stated that he went to 3 different Halloween parties dressed up as Death with a black robe and he was at mass just because his parents made him go. We all were utterly bewildered in seeing just how powerful Evil can be, and how it is plaguing the young generations, who are growing up being respectful to all that’s “material” and has a value money-wise, instead of striving to serve the Lord.
I will be forever thankful to my parents and my family for putting me on the right path, for providing me with wholesome and important values which have helped me tremendously to become a God-driven person with a higher purpose.

Ephesians, 5:6-12 ” Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

More London pictures

October 16, 2010 at 12:35 | Posted in Alice, Family | 2 Comments

I was browsing through my London pictures and thought it would be neat to share with you some more! These are pictures I took during my visit in December 2009.

That’s me after shopping at one of my favourite places in London: Jane Asher’s Party Cakes! It’s a cake supply store and I was able to get lovely Christmas sprinkles and other edible decorations.

Me again, this time in front of The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. I am a ballet enthusiast and hope to actually watch a performance at The Royal Opera House in the future!

My dear friend Silvia and I. Please pray for her as she is going through cancer treatment: she is now growing stronger in the Lord and I am so very grateful for this.

The following pictures were taken on another visit (with my parents and best friend Anna) in the Spring of 2008.

Lavish chocolate displays at Harrods.

A carriage escorting a royal guest inside Buckingham Palace during the changing of the guard ceremony. How fancy!

A nice view from the London Eye, the biggest panoramic wheel in the world.

My mom, my dad and I on the Tower Bridge.

The sign at the entrance to the Tower of London: it’s a bit intimidating to think that we were entering “her majesty’s palace and fortress”.

The Jewel Tower inside the Tower of London, where all the crown jewels are kept.

On a lighter note, this is me (excuse my terrible face…) with Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.

Anna and I with Princess Diana’s wax model.

Madame Tussaud’s wax museum is located in Baker Street, famous for being the place where Sherlock Holmes’ office was. This is the wall of Baker Street’s underground station.

Hope you enjoy this pictures!

Christmas cookie project update: this afternoon I’m going to bake a “test batch” of Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps… recepie, pictures and tips coming soon!

Blessings,
Alice

Christmas Project

October 13, 2010 at 14:13 | Posted in Christmas Project, Family, Homemaking | Leave a comment

It’s only a little over two months until my favourite holiday season: Christmas!

Every year, I celebrate Christ’s birth with my family and feel so very blessed to do so.

Every year, I try to give meaningful and useful presents and this year will make no exception. However, there is an important twist to my traditional Christmas shopping in 2010.

I have decided to “make” the presents instead of “buying” the presents.
First of all, one of my goals in 2010 was to be more thrifty, and secondly I believe that the best presents you can get are those made with hands, love, and prayer.

I have done a lot of thinking and praying to seek guidance to find a project that would be purposeful and compatible with my full-time work schedule.
And the end result was… Christmas cookies!

(photo courtesy of Google Images)

In the next few weeks, I am going to look at various cookies recipes, try them, and then shortlist the ones that turn out best. Then, I am going to browse through various shops and my grandma’s cellar (the best place to find hidden treasures!) looking for medium-sized cookie jars or simple, plain glass jars to put the cookies in.

At first, I thought about making just one kind of cookies for every jar, but then I realized I wanted to add the feeling of “something special” that you can find only at Christmas time, and decided it would be better (and more appreciated, too!) to have each jar filled with a selection of cookies. I am planning on baking 4 to 5 different kinds of cookies, making them slightly on the smaller side, so that I will be able to bake more out of one cookie dough recipe. And smaller cookies will also fit better in the jar.

Each jar will ideally be finished off with a piece of fabric on top of the lid, tied up with a nice ribbon and a Christmas tag with the names of the cookies and the ingredients.

Since I have quite a large extended family, and my time is limited to say the least, I have opted for giving one jar to each family unit, therefore making it a lot easier while being still a fun and rewarding experience.

I hope to start posting news about my “cookie trials” very soon!

In Him,

Alice

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates“, Proverbs 31:31.

Gifts from Canada!

August 29, 2010 at 20:37 | Posted in Family | 1 Comment

In one of my previous posts, I have mentioned that my family had the privilege of meeting and spend three days with our relatives from Canada.
They are my dad’s cousins, born to my paternal grandfather’s sister, who emigrated to Canada like many Italians did in the 1940’s. She is now 86 years old and wasn’t feeling like coming along with her children, as the trip would have been too long. Even though we would have loved to have her here (especially my grandma, as she was her maid of honor), we are constantly keeping dear Aunt Maria in our prayers.

It was their very fisrt time here in Italy, and we were all absolutely thrilled to meet them for the very first time. Even though we had only three days together, it feels wonderful to know that we have family in Canada and it was also very neat to finally put a “person” to the faces we got to see only in pictures! Not to mention that we cannot wait for the Lord to select a perfect time for a trip to Canada…

There were 8 of them total, and I got to be the official family “translator”! We took them to various places in our area, and they were all so intrigued to see everything from ancient Roman ruins to vineyards, farms, beaches, mountains, and so on. My uncle took hundreds of pictures and I hope to be able to post some very soon!

They were so amazing and even brought small all-Canadian gifts for us… below is a picture:

They treated us with a pancake mix, maple coffee, maple tea, maple fudge, maple candies, maple lip balm and a moose mug!
Not shown in the picture are two pais of beautifully crafted earrings from a genuine Inuit store, a maple leaf necklace, maple soap and tea towels.

Oh, how I sorely miss them! Thankfully, modern means of communication make it very easy to keep in touch!

Thank you soooo much, Johnny and Dina: you are such a blessing to our family and it truly was an honour getting to meet you!

Proverbs, 17:8 “A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.”

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