Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas and her inspirations…

Christmas is innately a period of reflection and either as a result of this or just by habit, I have noticed that as a society we gradually slow down ….. developing a softness that is so comforting…..People tend to offer a politeness, a gesture a smile a “buon natale, buona festa, happy Christmas..etc” ….and this will come from either a dear friend or a complete stranger.  This is the way on either side of the world…offered on a scorching sweltering – humid as hell- Australian December day …or on a bitterly cold day in Italy.  Regardless of our stressors and busy lifestyle we take that simple extra moment of well wishing that can have such a profound effect and make a person smile.  
What Christmas actually means for any of us is completely and entirely variable BUT I love that fact that Christmas has this softening capability on our souls….I am well aware that Christmas can also bring sadness to some/many but I like to think that this general softening  and compassion that is evoked in many  us, comes with a capacity to absorb and caress and ease some of this sadness.
My head is like a cascade of emotion absorbing so much around me, reflections on my time here in Italy and reflections on the journeys that each of the children have experienced.  But for now, I feel so privileged that I have had this opportunity to be filled with thoughts and contemplation …..
Enough of the soggy stuff….what’s been happening….?
We have had been privileged once again with a visit from the beautiful Emma Williams….Emma was a visitor from heaven….cleaning, cooking, babysitting and most of all a truly good friend J We managed to sneak out for dinner to my favourite restaurant Da Pasquale’s for a seven course – champagne matched dinner…..I truly felt like I could have exploded with food and joy all at the same time.  Pasquale and chef Carlo are a truly perfect fusion of food and wine. In Brisbane this kind of culinary delight is hard to find and IF you could find it you would possibly need a second mortgage to pay for it…BUT here.. 35 euro – 45 aussie dollars per head (all the wine you could drink – which wasn’t much after all the food)….. I mean, truly….it is AMAZING!!!!!
Emma and I were also privileged to spend a morning doing a cooking class with Carlo and Pasquale. First thing Pasquale took us shopping for vegies at the orto frutta and then for the wines at the best and most ancient enoteca in Lucca….Wow!!!!!
Then with our fresh local ricotta and other produce we headed back to the restaurant for some cooking with Carlo. We were truly spoilt,  making fresh pasta, sugo, ricotta mouse, sampling local olive oils and wines.  We even picked up the kids from school halfway through and at the end we all dined together. What a great way to spend a day (which also fortunately coincided with my birthday!)!!
Gala Dinner
My wonderful friends Giulia and Andrea had invited me to their very first gala dinner to aide the contribution the Stella Maris Foundation. This is a very worthy cause looking into a variety of Paediatric Neurological disorders, treatments, rehabilitations etc…. This was the first of its kind and was all inspired from G & A’s visit to Australia and their attendance to the Butterfly Ball in Brisbane…. Regardless of this being the first event, they pulled it off with pure pizzazz!!!
There is so much happening around Christmas…Mostly I have been indulged with the brave and courageous participation of my beautiful children in their school concerts….Gabby and Spencie have both had their concerts and Malachy will have his this Friday (where ironically he is playing an angel dressed in pure white …hahaha!!).  We have been blest with the welcoming of an assortment of new (all Italian) Christmas carols resonating through the house. We were also given a beautiful Christmas gift from Paola (our landlady) that include all the ancient Christmas songs of the world, the lyrics, music scores, and a cd. It has been a hit and has also encouraged me to have a long awaited return to twinkling the ivory J Very rusty I have to say but I (never thought I would say this) but am seriously contemplating a piano on our return home …
We have Janie, will and Finlay all arriving today from Rome which will be great to have some family around for Christmas day…
Shortly after Christmas we are heading to the Dolimiti for skiing holiday with good friends J…..This will be interesting. I am putting all my faith and hope into the ski kindy for me to have an opportunity to carve it up once more…..It’s been almost 7 years since I was last on the slopes with Nicko, Bez and Andy….one of the best ski trips ever J But no doubt I will be rusty!!!
Not long after the Dolomiti we head to Austria again to see Gertraud and Andreas for some more skiing this time in Innsbruck Austria where it will also coincide with the Junior winter Olympics!
Much to do little time and none for blog editing purposes sorry J
Although I am far, my thoughts are near…… to my family and friends who have been such wonderful examples and inspirations in my life …..
Buon Natale, buona festa and Happy Christmas!!!!!!!
Somebody have an icy cold fresh prawn for me on Christmas day and wash it down with an even colder XXXX beer J
Lots of love to you all from Bron, Gabby, Spencer and Malachy

 checking out the wines with pasquale's
 cooking class with emma

 Gabby having a go at cooking sugo...

 Eating the profits...

 Emma and Malachy hooning round town!!

 Gran gala dinner with Andrea

 San Martino illuminated with stars

 streets of lucca

 Gabby's christmas concert

 Spencers christmas light

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas is coming…

Well the weeks are flying by now….and added pressure from work/studies in Australia is certainly not slowing time down….
Where I left off from last time…

San Martino…..
Well as I said I was not going to be attending but from all accounts of the children, mum and other families….it was a magical experience for all….I am sure you can see from the photos that this was a pretty special event…. The children were even privileged to a surprise visit from San Martino himself who came to pay the children gratitude for their consideration and celebration of his deeds ….. He came in on his horse, wearing his infamous red cape that sliced off with his sword all that time ago to help a poor beggar in the freezing cold….. ultimately providing us all the warmth and comfort we desire when we are cold and alone…..

Boys and bikes….
Recently the boys have learnt  to ride a bike – without training wheels!!! We have been practising a bit lately and sure enough, Spencie took off – independent and free. He was so proud, head high, shoulder’s back and so proud of himself!! The older wiser brother….. at least  until the next day younger brother butted in and learnt too!!!  You could imagine Malachy’s joy to have caught up to his big brother so quickly!!!!

Puccini concert
Recently Puccini’s “La Boheme” came to town. I knew this was going to be a good production…..Lucca is Puccini’s hometown…Nobody would dare bring a secondary performace to a  Lucca stage.  So I treated myself to a visit to the local Teatro del Giglio (a very grand and regal performing centre in the heart of Lucca).  I have been to other chamber music performances at the theatre before, but hadn’t been into the main theatre……Wow what an experience!!!! Everything you would imagine of a grand old theatre of the 16th C to behold.  A chandelier the size of a small car hanging over the centre of the audience, enough box seats to cater for all the local noble men, red velvet seats, gold trimming etc.
Then their was the performance!!! This was kicked off with the orchestra performing the Italian national anthem- which traditionally prompts the audience to stand and sing the anthem with the orchestra!!! I wished so much to know the words – it was magical – everyone sung with passion pride and strength… In hindsight it was a fragile time for the country….and still is (the whole parliamentary fragilitiy – another blog should be dedicated to this).  So it was a magnificent introduction to Italian opera and the following performance did not disappoint…. La Boheme is such an enticing story to begin with  - but the music….the singing…..completely captivating…!!!! I was so excited because for the first time in my life I could actually understand quite a big of what was being sung! Fortunatley for me I had a lovely family from Firenze next to me and the Dad was passionately describing to his two adolescent sons the story and historical and musical significance of the various acts and scenes. This was so lovely to see, such passion of detail being passed down from father to his children……I could not help but think how fortunate these children were!!!!

Spencie’s birthday…
The long anticipated birthday boy finally turned 5!!!!! Spencie began anticipating this since his 4th birthday!! It’s what he has been telling everybody he meets….It’s my birthday in Italy! (Because he knew he would be the only child in the family to have a birthday party in Italy). Spencie even had a special visit from friends from Rome to help celebrate with some Gluten Free tiramisu early in the day. Later that afternoon, Spencie was treated to another set of visitors….his grandparents – Tidge and John (Nicks mum and partner).  This was such a special day for Spencie, it was so lovely to see his little face light up with every delight of his day!

Christmas wreath
We have busy getting prepared Christmas. Tidge and John fortunately gifted us a Christmas tree and decorations for Christmas! This was an exciting adventure with such satisfaction to all at completion of decoration!
Christmas does inevitably have such a different feel here…there is something so special about a cold Christmas period …. Glistening Christmas lights are even more “glisteny” in the misty late afternoons….Old doors decorated in real foliage from holly and pine tree all tied together with silky red ribbons.
Malachy’s kindy had a special night for the parents to participate in making our own Christmas wreath. We were also required to add 4 red candles to the wreath to represent the 4 weeks of Christmas. Each Sunday we light one more  candle and with each week comes a new story of the different Christmas angels (these stories are all a bit Hans Christen Anderson like and I just love sharing such wonderment with them!!!).

Christmas in Lucca…..
Well as if the town wasn’t already alive for us….Lucca just keeps getting better!!! This last week we have seen the erection and tested out the outdoor ice skating ring in the Piazza Napoleone.  Gabby has improved out of sight and the boys are surprisingly hesitant… give it a few more days I say!!!!
Last Wednesday night we attended a free Disney music concert in a 500 year old chapel that has been converted into an auditorium – fantastic in my opinion but the kids were a bit restless…..and with that much marble around it could only end in tears….Just at the grande finale Malachy pushed it a bit too far and I can tell you the marble was fine. It was still dark so I attempted to kiss his head better – felt and unusal taste on my lips and sure enough blood everywhere. Thankfully my professional experience was able to calm the hordes of concerned Italians begging me to call an ambulance and please take this poor bambino to ospedale!!!! He was fine and we continued straight on to the pizza restaurant blood stained head and all!!

Another treat in town this weekend was a traditional medieval market. A plethora ancient handcrafts and traditions were on display. We tried out cross bow shooting, sword fighting….tasted ancient cookie recipe’s….watched the candle maker…..terracotta cooking pots being made…..and so many glorious food and drinks to sample!!!
The piazza outside San Michelle, one of the main chapels of the town, is now home to an detailed and natural nativity scene include grand old olive trees (some would have to be at least 100 years old) citrus trees, rows of grape vines, sculptures…its incredible the level of effort that has gone into the display. The figure of Mary is in the stable at the moment with a big belly and we are eagerly anticipating the change in her tummy around Christmas….:-)

These are all merely snippet of life, its so hard to keep up you up to date with everything but I try….merry Christmas to all of our family and friends. Wishing you all safe, happy, warm wonderful festive seasons!! 

 Christmas decoration's

 San Martino celebrations

Testing out the lanterns...

 Walking through the forrest with the lanterns

Birthday boy :-) With his favourite Italian girl :-)))

Making our christmas wreath's

testing out our skating legs

Medieval Madness!!! 

Disney concert

Malachy's claret head!

Nut cracking competition - missed this one...

Cross bow competition... the kids loved this one!!!