Monday, December 13, 2010

An Italian Christmas

When I spent my first Christmas in Italy, I admit I was pretty cynical. Although the spirit was there, I couldn't help but compare it to my Christmas back home and everything I missed about "my" traditional Christmas that I grew up with. The lavish houses we would drive by all decked out from lawn to roof.... the smell of fresh trees.... the Christmas music in every store... and most of all our family dinners and chaotic opening of the presents on Christmas Eve. Instead of concentrating on the new traditions I was going to make, I dwelled over what I missed back home.

This year is a different story and I am appreciating everything. I still love and miss my Christmases back home but it truly is a different story when you actually do stop and smell the roses, or in this case, the chestnuts roasting! Here in our little town, there's many more apartments and condominiums than single houses with porches and front yards. We don't get a whole production like back in L.A. but many people decorate their balconies with lights and Santa dolls climbing up the railing and it is just as beautiful and just as Christmasy. I still get to adore seeing some family Christmas trees making their display in home windows and Christmas shopping in full force. This past weekend they set up a little open market in our community parking lot where they sold novelty items, trinkets and knick knacks, toys, and sweets and chestnuts roasting. Really gets you in the Christmas spirit!

Surprisingly, one thing that is new to me is our nieces and nephews who believe in Santa Claus or as they call him here, Babbo Natale. There is nothing like childhood innocence. They all wrote letters to Santa and told him they have been good and what they want for Christmas. I never actually was made to believe Santa Claus really existed when I was a kid so this was new to me. Then on Christmas Eve, one of our family members dresses up as Santa and brings the gifts to the kids. Can't get any more precious than that.

But so far, the most favorite experience I have had, is cozying up with my husband at home the other evening watching TV with the lights off, and christmas tree lights glimmering in the corner of our living room. But that's not all, a group of people are playing instruments to Silent Night right downstairs from our balcony. It was magical and like in the movies. I absolutely adore the band members who have been walking around the town every evening like carolers and playing Christmas songs. I run to the balcony every time and just take it all in like a nice warm cup of hot apple cider. It really doesn't get more perfect than that.

Wherever you may be on Christmas, whether you are at home or somewhere new, you can still get in the spirit and especially if you are with ones you love. Merry Christmas and Buon Natale everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Healthy and Delicious Salad

Nowadays, there are such a huge variety of different salads to choose from. They aren't just a dietary meal or a side dish anymore, but a delicious and filling entree. I love the fact that there is pretty much a different kind of salad for any mood you are in... whether you want an asian flare, or a mexican or greek influence... they are all filling and satisfying.

My current favorite salad is really simple and fast to make but still has all the flavor you are looking for and waist friendly. It actually isn't an Italian salad you can find at an Italian restaurant here in Italy, but it does use all the food staples you would find in an Italian kitchen. It also follows the simplicity of Italian dishes where you can take in the full flavor of the few ingredients used. If you want to make this into an entree, just add some grilled chicken breast to it.

Insalata di Rucola
(Arugula Salad)

1 bag of pre-washed arugula
2 tablespoons of yellow raisins
1 tablespoon of crushed almonds
Extra virgin olive oil
Cracked black pepper

Add all the ingredients together and toss to mix. Drizzle oil, sprinkle salt and add black pepper to your liking.

And that is it! Really simple and quick yet healthy and delicious. The sweetness of the raisins combined with the kick of the arugula and crunch of the almonds is the perfect mixture in your mouth.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! =)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Simple Life = Less Expectations?

With all the wet weather these past few weeks I have been hibernating in my home and trying to stay warm. I save going out for the weekends but I have been suffering some cabin fever. At times, I almost feel like a puppy that has been stuck in the house all day and is scratching at the door to go out sometimes. I think a lot of you know what I mean but I have realized that a lot of Italians don't have this problem. Back in LA, I would go out every day, rain or shine, and would never just stay at home unless I was sick. I always had to find something to do to keep me busy. That's just how I was.

However, it's different here. It's crazy to think that most of the people in this town have never stepped out of Europe, let alone Italy, and some not even to any other major Italian cities in their entire lifetime. From my three sisters-in-law, only one has been on an airplane and that was just for her honeymoon. Ironically, I have traveled more Italian cities than they have. But the thing is, they are perfectly fine with this. It's a norm here and they don't expect anything more. They don't get cabin fever, and they don't have the urge to go traveling or take a vacation like most of us do in the States.

I believe it is a combination of what they are use to, the convenience of traveling, and their level of stress from work that pushes them to need a "get-away vacation". For us Americans, we take any three-day weekend, mental day-off, holiday break to take a vacation and go somewhere out of the city. It's just what we do. However, I do think that our more complicated, or less simple lives, with high-demanding jobs, sitting in traffic, and the luxury of having so many places to travel to with the click of a button and a cheap flight on sale have made us "want" to travel more and explore because we can and that is our norm. It's pretty much the same thing with technology and electronics.

All in all, I realize that my living the simple life here has definitely allowed me to enjoy the simpler things and have less desire for the materialistic things that I craved back in LA. I've learned to have less expectations on finding an event to attend every weekend as I did back in LA. I am not as crazed to follow the latest trends which actually is stressful as well. However, I don't know if I can ever fight this cabin fever feeling. It just boggles my mind how these Italians are content just staying within their little town for as long as they live but are completely content with it. All hail to the simple life? I am still split on my conclusion. =) I think it's a great privilege to be able to travel and see the world and experience different cultures, foods, people, and traditions. It keeps your life interesting, exciting and adventurous and anything but simple. I think there is a time for both... but it really depends on the type of person you are. In the end, it's what will make you satisfied and fulfilled with your life. What would you prefer?