Archive | December, 2011

New Twist On An Old Tradition

20 Dec

Italian Cookies

A sampling of this year's batch of Italian cookies

When I was a kid we used to receive tins of cookies every year at Christmastime from my grandmother. She and my grandfather lived in Albany, New York, and when we weren’t living overseas, we lived in the Baltimore area during my younger days. I loved the cookies in those tins and one type of cookie always stood out in my memory. They were twisted into shape, coated with a thin sugar icing and topped with multi-colored sprinkles.

Years later, after my grandmother died, I learned how to make those cookies from my dad’s cousin Maria. My grandmother had been her aunt. After that, every year my sister Vickie and I would get together a week or so before Christmas to make the “Italian cookies”, as we like to call them. Sometimes my other sisters, JoAnn and Domenica would join us in our Christmas baking. The recipe makes an enormous amount of cookies so we always had plenty to share among us.

Vickie passed away nine years ago this past November. I continue to make the Italian cookies every year no matter where in the world I find myself. Vickie and I used to try to come up with a new shape of cookie each year and make a dozen or so cookies with that new shape. Since she passed away, I’ve added a cookie in the shape of a “V” in her honor. This year I added a new shape to my repertoire: a pomegranate. I think Vickie’d be happy about that.

Vickie and Maria

Vickie and Maria during a baking session

Grandma Genovese

Grandma Genovese in her kitchen, as rendered by my sister Domenica.

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We Pulled Into Nazareth

17 Dec

Nazareth Christmas Tree

One of the oddest Christmas trees i've ever seen. Totally fake and way too symmetrical! But probably pretty when lit up at night.

Basilica of the Annunciation

Basilica of the Annunciation

Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel

Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel

Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel populated almost exclusively by Palestinian Arabs, roughly a third of whom are Christian. This weekend the annual Christmas market is taking place so we decided it was about time for a visit. Our plan of getting there really early to beat the traffic (supposedly especially bad on a Saturday) garnered us a primo parking space. But we were there way too early for the opening of the Christmas Market. We whiled away the time visiting some of the main attractions in the Old City: The Basilica of the Annunciation (claims to be built upon the site of the Virgin Mary’s home where the Annunciation is said to have taken place), The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel (also claims to be built at the site of the Annunciation at a natural spring) and the souk (market place).¬†We decided to also visit the Coptic Church of the Annunciation, a bit off the beaten path and, unfortunately, closed. Eventually the market began to spring to life. It was nice to see some Christmas decor and hear Christmas music but it was really a sad little market. (Of course, we’ve been spoiled by all the Christmas markets we visited in Germany!) I was delighted, however, to see some wares being sold by a nonprofit org from Bethlehem and made some purchases. We had a quick lunch of falafel (for me) and shwarma (for B), purchased some Arab sweets to go and made our way back home.

One Year Already!

15 Dec

Today marks the one-year anniversary of our arrival in Israel. So much has happened since that day of our arrival at Ben Gurion airport.

Welcome to Israel

In the first few months of living here I spent a good part of my days exploring our neighborhood on foot while hubby drove into downtown Tel Aviv for work. I got to know Herzliya Pituach pretty well.

Hibiscus

Hedges of hisbicus surround many properties in my neighborhood

Hoopoe

I'm always delighted when I see a hoopoe in the 'hood.

Beach in Herzliya

A fifteen-minute walk to the beach

On weekends we began to visit historic sites near and far.

Caesarea

Caesarea

Beit Shean

Beit Shean

Akko

Akko

I joined some social clubs and made lots of friends with whom I’ve been exploring the area. I’ve been studying Hebrew and Arabic, visiting museums and markets, restaurants and cafes. I offered my graphic design services on a volunteer basis to some non-profit organizations and have been able to keep my design skills honed. Just recently, I took a part-time job in Tel Aviv. This brings me into the city on a regular basis, satisfying my affinity for city life. I find Tel Aviv to be a curious mix of grit and refinement with an edgy artistic sensibility.

Tel Aviv Grafitti

Tel Aviv Grafitti

Cinema Hotel

Cinema Hotel

Neve Tzedek

Neve Tzedek

As with all places there are both good things and bad about my new home.

cappuccino

Good: Delicious coffee at nearly every cafe . . . and no Starbucks here!

Hummus

Good: Yummy food!

Shop in Jerusalem

Good: Exotic shopping

dog waste disposal

Bad: I don't think anyone uses these dog waste disposal bags. In fact, pet dogs are allowed to run free in the neighborhood and there are way too many stray cats.

Tel Aviv Traffic

Bad: Horrendous traffic, crazy drivers, parking nightmares

I wonder what the coming year will bring? If it flies by as quickly as this past year has I had better hold on for the ride.

I Got the Christmas Blues

4 Dec

pandoro motta

A touch of Christmas, Italian-style; beautiful to look at and oh so delicious.

I’ve been so busy since my return from Italy that I haven’t had a chance to begin preparations for Christmas until this weekend. I went to look for our Christmas ornaments and could not find them anywhere. I went to look for our stash of Christmas cards. Nowhere to be found. After searching in every nook and cranny of our house I scraped my brain cells trying to remember what happened to our Christmas stuff.

B and I both believe that the movers must have inadvertently packed up our Christmas stuff with the items that went into storage. I had managed to pull out a few items to ship separately but only a very few. We believe the rest of our Christmas decorations are sitting somewhere in a warehouse in the States.

We cancelled our planned trip to the Israel Museum today to go on a hunt for Christmas cards and decorations. I had heard about a church in Jaffa that was having the grand opening of their Christmas Sale today. So off to Jaffa we went. We entered the hall of St. Anthony’s church and saw a room full of Christmas kitsch. I did pick out a few ornaments that I wouldn’t be too embarrassed to display but the real prize was the Pandoro I spotted on one of the tables. I managed to grab the last available package.

After that we racked our brains trying to think of where in the world in Israel can one find Christmas decorations and cards?? We’re still trying to figure that one out as the holiday mail deadline approaches.