2015 Thanksgiving Reflection

Thanksgiving

This was our 3rd Thanksgiving celebration in Lucca, Italy. When my husband and I moved to Italy, we thought it would be nice to host Thanksgiving. We never really had the opportunity to do so in the States. We thought that there had to be other people living in Lucca, who maybe missed having a real Thanksgiving.

I realize the original Thanksgiving may not be as romantic as the history books make it appear to be, but the holiday has progressed into a time of wining and dining with friends and family, and that alone is something to be thankful for. Preparing a Thanksgiving feast for our new friends in Italy, has been such a great honor, and we have enjoyed it more and more every year.

Who could not love the suspense in going to the butcher to pick up the turkey (il Turkey pickuptacchino)?! Every year, we worry that the turkey won’t arrive on time, or that we had accidentally ordered a cornish hen or something. (We don’t really have a lot of confidence in our Italian communication skills yet.) Additionally, the size of what we get has to be able to fit inside of our miniature Italian oven. However, we never have anything to fear. We love our local butcher so much! He always presents us with such an amazing turkey. It has been an interesting lesson to learn as well, as ordering turkey really is not a normal Italian thing to do, so everyone in our neighborhood knows we are Americans now. However, they were friendly and many people, whom we didn’t know, wished us a “Buona Festa” (Happy Holiday).

Besides our beautiful turkey, that my husband spent all day preparing to perfection, we had all the other traditional foods that are uncommon in Italy. This included: cranberryTurkey sauce (yes – I prefer the canned version), yams, brussels sprouts, green bean casserole (with the French’s onions of course), homemade stuffing (magically prepared by my husband), and many desserts with pumpkin and apple. You need multiple plates just to try a little sliver of everything, and it is wonderful. My husband is an amazing cook, and many of our guests bring wonderful dishes as well. Every year we have more and more people attend our little Thanksgiving and that wonderful company is what I remember the most – even more than the amazing food.

If it turns out that this was in fact our last year hosting Thanksgiving in Lucca, it was fantastic, as every year has been, and we are so blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people.

To all our friends and family in the United States and all over the world, I hope you all had a very blessed Thanksgiving!!!

 

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Arrivederci 2014-Benvenuto 2015

Buon Anno!

This holiday season I decided to follow in my mother-in-law’s footsteps by not coming out with a Christmas message until after Christmas. She said that people don’t have a lot of time before Christmas to sit and read letters anyway, and I agree if for no other reason than the fact that I have been too busy to write my letter.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to spend the holidays in the United States with friends and family. It has been our first trip back since we moved to Italy a year and a half ago, and we have been having a wonderful time. Being back makes us realize some of the things that we have missed since moving to Italy. We have been eating lots of Mexican food, and I have definitely been taking advantage of the fact that I can wash and dry a whole load of laundry in less than two hours. We both also drove cars for the first time in a year and a half. Overall, we are just enjoying spending time with our parents, siblings, niece and nephew. We have had so much fun talking and laughing with family that I have lost my voice.

Soon we will be returning back to our home in Italy. It has been an interesting year living in Italy. It is a simpler lifestyle. The main focuses are family and food not work like in the United States. It is a slower lifestyle where you do actually take time to smell the flowers (and the pastries). Lucca is a walled city that has converted their ancient walls into a park that you can walk on. Sometimes I would walk on the walls and think to myself that no place is more amazing than Lucca. We feel so blessed to have this amazing opportunity living in Italy no matter what struggles we have been faced with.

My husband continues to amaze me. He has embraced living in Italy so much that it almost seems like he was always meant to live there. He speaks and understands Italian far better than I do and has also started dressing more like an Italian. He continues to create new masterpieces in the kitchen which recently included making pasta from scratch. We hosted Thanksgiving for the second year in Lucca, and the turkey came out even better than last year. My husband spent the whole day cooking the turkey and his toil was to our benefit as it was the best turkey I had ever had.

My husband continues to work full time at IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca. He has spent the last year continuing work on using complex network methods to understand innovation networks, with about ten people at his institute working with him on linking the patent data he’s worked with to other databases they have access to.  He has about five papers that are partially completed on a wide range of topics right now including geolocation (putting millions of pins on a map based on patent addresses), disambiguation (determining that “MIT” and “Mass. Inst. of Tech.” refer to the same institution), predicting collaboration between scientific authors, detecting structure in correlation networks, and understanding citations within or between firms.  This year has been very productive, and the fruit of all that labor will be seen in multiple publications next year!

While my husband is at work, I have been working from home on a project with a professor from Northeastern University. He is writing an Introduction to Network Science textbook. The online version is available here. The hard copy may or may not be coming out in 2015. It has been an enjoyable project.

At the beginning of 2014, I found a English book club in Lucca. Everyone that knows me knows that I love reading. When I lived in Washington, DC and then in Boston, I enjoyed participating in book clubs. I love having people to discuss books with. I find that I appreciate books more when I can discuss them and be faced with different viewpoints. The book club in Lucca has also helped me meet a few ex-pats that I can spend time with and share experiences beyond books .

We have enjoyed the company of many friends throughout 2014. We have shared Lucca, wine, and our home and loved every minute of it. We find that we explore more of our beautiful town and country when we have visitors. In 2014, we watched fireworks in Pisa for New Years, stood among a million people from all over the world in Rome for the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, wore masks through the streets of Venice for Carnivale, threw confetti for Carnivale in Viareggio, ate our way through Bologna, watched fishies at the aquarium in Genova, listened to the bells of the Duomo di Siena, relaxed along the waters of Cinque Terre, ate the worlds best gelato in San Gimignano, visited Saint Francis in Assisi, listened to multiple Puccini concerts in Lucca, and explored the surrounding areas of Lucca. Even with all of these adventures there is still much more of Italy to see. We look forward to seeing a bit more in 2015.

Other than exploring Italy, my husband and I had a few wonderful adventures outside of Italy as well. In January, we visited friends in Berlin, where we wore our heavy winter coats for the only time that season. In the summer, we joined my husband’s family for our annual trip that included a weekend in Istanbul, Turkey followed by a safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania to view the wildebeest migration. At the end of the summer, we visited friends in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. In October, we traveled to the beaches of Normandy in France. I will continue to write more about all of these individual travel adventures on our Travel Page. As we continue to check off items on our travel bucket list, we also continue to add items. We have definitely learned this year that there is more to see and do in the world than we had ever imagined previously. We hope that 2015 will bring just as many travel adventures as 2014 did.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful 2014! May you all be blessed with love and joy throughout 2015!

Thanksgiving 2013

When I was little, my family celebrated Thanksgiving at my Grandmother’s house. I remember how the table would be so well decorated and full of food. My Grandmother had made ceramic name holders, so we knew where to sit. The name holder also had an Andes candy in it. That was my favorite part of Thanksgiving, especially when Grandma would slip me a few Andes candies on the side. 🙂

For the last few years, I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my husband’s Boston family. It was actually at Thanksgiving that I first met them 5 years ago. Surrounded by 50 members of my husband’s family, all talking at the same time, was a bit overwhelming, but now it is hard to imagine Thanksgiving any other way.

However, we no longer live in Boston and have an opportunity to celebrate a bit differently this year. My husband and I have decided to host Thanksgiving for the first time ever. He seems really excited about cooking a turkey. We have decided to invite all the Americans that we know here along with their families. We should have about a dozen people. I think that is a good amount for our first Thanksgiving. We should have more than enough food. If this goes well, we are hoping to invite many more people next year.

Through all the running around to prepare for our first Thanksgiving here in Italy, I have forgotten all the many things and people I am thankful for. I have decided to make a list of ten things that I am thankful for this year.

  1. I am thankful that we get to host Thanksgiving and celebrate with new friends.
  2. I am thankful that my husband and I survived our first year of marriage. I love you husband.
  3. I am thankful for my Grandmother’s love and friendship. Miss you everyday, Grandma.
  4. I am thankful that we have this amazing opportunity to live in Tuscany.
  5. I am thankful for all the friends and family I got to visit with before I moved.
  6. I am thankful for all the awesome people I met through the Lucca Italian School.
  7. I always loved Black Friday Shopping, but now I am thankful that I live in another country so I don’t have to choose between that and Thanksgiving.
  8. I am thankful that I still get to watch Packers games.
  9. I am thankful for all the new places I got to explore this year.
  10. I am thankful for books.

Hope everyone back in the great U.S. of A. has a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!