Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Italian Christmas

I know this is a little late but Buon Natale! As with all of you, the days following Thanksgiving have been busy. After Rome, we had just enough time to get back into the swing of things before hosting the CanAm (Canadian American) Thanksgiving and the Guyer visit at the end of Nov/early Dec.  Thats ok, it's good to be busy right? We were so excited to have more visitors and were more than ready for Pat and Tessie to arrive!  Lily was pretty ecstatic too:)  I'm sure she's sick of seeing the same two faces everyday all day. They stayed for 10 days, which gave us a good amount of time to show them some of our favorite destinations.  The first Sunday they arrived we took a day trip to Venice.  This was about 2 weeks after the big flood and they still had risers up for people to walk on in case the city flooded again.  From what we could see, the water was very high in the canals and many steps coming up out of the canals were buried in water.  We had to walk on planks in some areas but nothing horrible. The day we visited, it was overcast and slightly rainy so not the best day, but we still were able  to tour around and enjoy ourselves!
San Marco Square- preparing for more rain

We took them to the usual spots, San Marco Square, Rialto Bridge, Grand Canal, Gelato stop and alot of Merano glass shopping.  It doesn't matter how many times we go to Venice, it's always a new experience and a fun trip. I think Gino's parents were in awe that they were "walking the streets of Venice", a place that they only pictured in the their dreams.  Venice is a place that I think everyone would agree, is one of the only cities that can be described as "truly unique".  I could go on and on!
I'm not sure if we'll ever be back to Venice, perhaps Gino and I will go once more before heading home in the Spring. But I think it's a blessing that we visited 3 times this year and amazing to say that we have been to Venice with both sets of parents! As you can see below, we each have a photo in the same spot ♥.  Many unforgettable memories...
Enough reminiscing! Moving on...
Later that week, we decided to do Christmasy things.  We decorated the tree while listening to Christmas music. Tessie had brought supplies for Lily to make a few ornaments/tree skirt, and we watched Christmas movies.  Gino and I would both agree that it was the first time , in a long time, where Christmas actually felt like Christmas.  Gino hasn't been home for Christmas in 7 years and I in 5.  A part of you gets used to it and you just go on with your day by trying to make it as merry as possible!  The other part of you tries to remember what it was like to go to Grandma and Grandpa's for Christmas and be surrounded by family.  It feels like so long ago! 
***Debbie Downer alert***  Gino and I were talking about it just the other day, that the last time he was home for Christmas and his last memories  are with people who are no longer with us anymore. So much has changed for him and his family in the last 7 years.  It puts things into perspective and like so many moments, makes you realize how precious life is.  You can't take a minute for granted! 
Wow, I'm on a roll today!  I promise the rest of this post won't be sappy.  Here are some pics of Lily's craft projects and decorating.
Hand Print Ornaments

Finished product! We may have a Picasso on our hands?
Painting her feet for the tree skirt stomp! (and that's a full diaper)

 Celebrating Christmas a little early with family in town was awesome!  Before I jump onto  Christmas, here was one of the highlights of  the trip...Lily loves her shadow!
The Christmas markets opened in Northern Italy on Nov 30th, so we made it a point to take Gino's parents to the Bolzano market which is about 1.5hrs from us.  I had been there in 2010 with friends and had always talked about it with Gino.  Christams markets arn't really a big thing in most of Italy and there are literally 4 or 5 big markets but they're all on the German/Austrian border.   They're in  Italian cities that don't really consider themselves Italian at all, but more German.  Luckily we're within 2 hours of all of them! We told ourselves that we're going to go to one Christmas market a week.  Anyways, we went to Bolzano on Pat and Tessie's last day in Italy.  The weather was great and the drive was beautiful.  Pat is a little afraid of heights and you go up two mountain passes to get there,  so the drive can be heart pounding.  You pass by a few castles in the valley's and miles and miles of vineyards.  We walked around the busy Christmas market for a few minutes and decided we were hungry. So the guys got in line for wurstel (brats) and gluhwein (hot wine).  Tessie, Lily and I grabbed a table under a heat lamp.  The food was delish! and I nice break from pasta.
Lily was also a fan of the gluhwein...
 We've talked about this a number of times, but we always wonder why Christmas markets haven't taken off in the US?  They're amazing and a great way to spend the month of December, celebrating and getting ready for Christmas.  The difference between Europeans and Americans is that many Americans tend to hibernate in the don't even need to buy winter boots or heavy jackets because you're basically never outside for more than a few minutes, running from your car to a store...unless you're playing some sort of winter sport.  Europeans take walks in the winter, eat outside under patios with heatlamps, etc.  It's just a different culture. I will tell you, there's nothing like having a hot chocolate at a cafe on an outdoor patio in the winter.  You have a blanket on your lap (provided by the restaurant or cafe) and warm heatlamps!

The Christmas market was a perfect end to a wonderful week with the Guyers!

On the Lily front, she turned 6 months old this month!!  People say kids grow up fast, well I'm really starting to realize that. Here's a photo of me, Lily, and Gino at 6 months old.  I'm still thinking she looks like Gino.  What do you think!?

We also started her on solids.  She did pretty well considering she has no teeth!...I swear the poor babe has been "teething" for months and can't seem to pop one through.  She started with bananas and it took a little getting used to the taste...

On Christmas Eve, we went to a couple on the team's house for dinner which was fun! It was nice to spend the evening with friends.  We left early to get home and put Lily to bed. Gino and I spent the rest of the night watching Christmas movies and doing "Santa" duties. Christmas morning was alot of fun with the three of us! As soon as Lily woke up, we brought her in bed with us and she had her morning bottle. We let her open a few gifts right away and then every couple of hours she would open another one. After weeks of trying to think about what Gino and I wanted for Christmas, we decided not to get gifts for each other this year.  There's been too much going on healthwise with a number of friends back home that we decided to make a few monetary donations.  We have everything we need right now and to go out and buy the new Iphone 5 or Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag (sigh) seemed silly.  I always say, that when we are home for good, we will surprise eachother with gifts again.  This might sound cheesy but there is no bigger happiness or nothing greater we could have ever wished to call ourselves but mommy and daddy.  That is honestly the best present and I don't think anything could really top it this year!!  Except for maybe that Louis Vuitton....jk :)

Side Note about Louis Vuitton (this may get long winded):  I think I was first introduced to LV back in the early 2000's when I saw Jessica Simpons multicolored purse on MTV's "The Newlyweds".  I thought it was cute! But nothing more.  I've never really thought much about big purse designers. (I'm not talking Coach or Michael Kors more like Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Balenciaga etc)  Don't get me wrong, I love a good purse and think they're gorgeous! but I could probably find about a million other things to spend money on then a $1,000 purse.  Not to say that if someone bought me one as a gift that I wouldn't take it! Because I would:) HINT HINT.  BUT after living  in Italy the last few months, I've developed this obsession (maybe facisnation is a better word) for LV, which isn't even an Italian brand haha.  EVERYONE has one in some style and size...EVERYONE.  I've never seen so many of them on the streets, its nuts.  I was told by one of my Italian friends that people over here don't buy fakes, they just don't. You can tell a fake from a mile away and its more of a status/ reputation thing and no one wants to tarnish that.  They care much more about the brand and not cheapening it.  Much different than in the States.  Honestly, if I saw a 16 yr old at Rosedale with an LV...I would assume it was fake. If I saw one here, you assume it's real and think, "Where did she get the money to buy that!?".   If you have one and it's real, I respect you! and appreciate you didn't purchase a fake:) . With that said, now I want an authentic LV... but I still can't see myself spending $1000 + on a purse...maybe one day.

Anyways, we spent the rest of the day skyping with family, taking a walk into Alleghe, baking, and watching Christmas movies.  For not spending the holidays with family, it was a really nice Christmas.

Lily with her favorite gift of all...the bow on her present.  She's a simple girl


A little hockey news.  Gino's team is in 4th place.  They will have a mini tournament (Italian Cup) in Turino (yes, shroud of Turin, Turino) next weekend. The top 4 teams at the half way point in the season qualified for this tournament.  Only 4 more games left of the regular season, followed by an 8 game re-seeding, where teams will be in their final spot for playoffs. It's crazy how fast this year went!  After the re-seed, they will have a short break in Feb where we're planning a trip to Florence, Pisa, and Siena.  Then playoffs start at the end of Feb.  Finally, a much needed and overdue warm vacation to sunny Florida with family before setteling back in at home for the Summer.

For New Years, the team was having a 10 course meal at one of the hotels in town but it didn't start until 8:30pm and we couldn't really see ourselves putting Lily through hour after hour of a sit down meal at a nice restaurant.  So, we decided we would drive to Bressanone (Brixen, in German) for the Christmas market. First, we had to make sure the mountain passes were open.  There's a sign right outside of our house that lists the passes that are closed for reasons ranging from, too much snow/ice, to avalanche.  Earlier that week it had listed the Campolongo pass being closed.  That happened to be the one that we had to go through.  But on New Yrs Eve it was open.   Bressanone is about 2 hours away from us and about 30-45min from the Austrian border.  The drive was beautiful! I think I counted about 25 different ski towns along the way.  One of the nicest/most popular was Corvara (45 min from Alleghe).  It's right on the otherside of the Campolongo pass.  I had thought maybe the pass had been closed earlier because of snow and ice but we noticed right away that wasn't the case.  There was a huge boulder! about the size/width of 2 small cars that had fallen off the mountain onto the road.  It looked like the side railing had been damaged and a truck must have moved the boulder off to the side. 

Corvara- skiers all over the place

We heard about this ski pass you can buy called the Dolomiti Superski. You buy one pass that gets you access to over 1200 km of ski runs/lifts.  I didn't know this, but the Dolomiti ski region is one of the largest in the world! You can take runs and different lifts from Mount Civetta in Alleghe(Black Arrow) all the way to Cortina (Green Arrow-45 min away) and even further.  It's really amazing.

After our drive to Bressanone and seeing all these ski towns, it looked like so much fun! We decided we want to take a trip in the next few years to a quaint ski town like Vail or Park City, rent a cabin with friends and have a little ski weekend.  We've started a list of "different/unique" trips we want to take.  Along with a ski vacation, Gino added salmon fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska and an Ireland/Scotland golf trip. I added a Safari at Masi Mara in Kenya and a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru.  Far stretch?  The list continues to grow. 

The Christmas market was a great way to spend New Years Eve, especially with Lily.  The sun was shining, the gluhwein flowing and music playing.  We did make a stop for a sushi lunch before hitting up the festivites.  Have to savor the rare sushi visits over here. 

I'll end this long post now! Here's a video that pretty much sums up the Christmas market vibe.  Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and I wish you love, health and happiness in 2013!



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