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Larry and I want to wish all of our Blog followers a very Happy Thanksgiving.  I believe only the Americans, Canadians and Dutch celebrate this day.  About three weeks ago our oldest daughter, Jeni, asked if we were going to have Thanksgiving for our new Italian friends.  I have to admit she was way ahead of me as I hadn’t thought about it but, since we have so much in our lives to be thankful for, it seemed like a wonderful idea.  We have invited six friends to join us for An American Thanksgiving (actually being held on Saturday since they all work).  I’m still searching for the illusive ingredients to put it together, so I’ll let you know how it all worked out later in the food blog.

Baby it is cold outside!  I really don’t expect much sympathy when we’re in Italy living our dream.  But honestly, other than leaving loved ones behind, for me dealing with the winter weather may be the hardest part of this adventure.  Anyone who knows me well is aware of how much I love the sun and warm weather, so California was my weather paradise.  I was raised on the east coast where we had winter but, once I was old enough to understand weather nationwide, I told everyone that I wanted to live in Florida or California. I admire the meteorologists in this area because I’ve never lived anywhere that they could predict the weather worth a darn.  If our weather forecast in Ascoli predicts rain at 3:00, more often than not, right around 3:00 it starts to rain.  I can probably count the number of sunny days so far this November on one hand.  This is no surprise, but that was the one bit of knowledge I had to put into my “denial file” in order to move here.  Monday night’s prediction was for 1″ of snow – our first in the city.  Fortunately, we took the forecast seriously and braved the cold rain on Monday to run our errands and gather supplies.  Before we went to bed Larry finally figured out a way to support a cover for our potted lemon tree, so we were hunkered down and ready.  When we awoke Tuesday morning it was 2 degrees Celsius and, sure enough, it was snowing, then sleeting, then raining, then snowing again, then sleeting, etc. – and the novelty very quickly wore off.  That pattern continued through the night and Wednesday we woke up to 1 degree Celsius and more snow.  Fortunately, here in the city most of the snow washed away but in the park three blocks away it is still on the ground.  Now it’s just freaking cold hovering around 0 degrees.

I declared Tuesday a “pajama day” but I wasn’t totally unproductive.  I managed to turn on the dishwasher, wash a load of clothes and make my first chestnut ravioli (which was pretty bland) and my first pasta without a pasta machine (it was pretty tough).  Before I knew they weren’t very tasty, Larry took half of them upstairs to our neighbors.  It was only right since Antonella was the one who gave me the chestnuts in the first place, sending me to the Internet to figure out what to do with them.  Wednesday I put on sweats for a change of scenery.  I know I can’t spend my first winter in Italy holed up in this apartment, so at some point I’ll have to make peace with the cold and damp and embrace winter life – maybe tomorrow?

One of the many things that I love about the people of Ascoli is the moment the rain/snow stops they are back on the streets in large numbers.  The piazzas are not “as full” on weeknights now as they were in summer but on Friday, Saturday and Sunday everyone is out shopping, socializing and eating. Unlike the Americans, the Italians take their time easing into Christmas.  Only last week did we see the first signs of Christmas in the shop windows in Ascoli.  I was told that every family has a Christmas tree and they put them up December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and take them down January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany.  (See explanations on the origin of these religious holidays at the end of this blog.)  Don’t tell the Italians, but we’re putting up our tree as soon as we get Thanksgiving out of the way this weekend, since we’ll be in Rome the following weekend.  Maybe we won’t turn on the lights yet?  We purchased our first holiday item at the monthly antiques market a couple weekends ago – a crèche with three terra cotta figures.  I don’t know why we always have to have a crèche since we aren’t really religious.  Maybe to prove we actually do know the reason for the season? That market was the first time we had seen any holiday decorations for sale.  Last week we purchased our artificial tree at IKEA and it should feel right at home with all our IKEA furniture.  I’ve purchased a glue gun and floral wire so now there isn’t anything I can’t build.    In the vein of keeping our life simple, I am determined to have our decorating be a “one-hour task” as opposed to my two days of holiday decorating in San Diego.  My plan is to have only the crèche, a door decoration and the tree.  Larry doesn’t believe me.  I’ll let you know how that turns out too.

What Is the Immaculate Conception? Few doctrines of the Catholic Church are as misunderstood as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Many people, including many Catholics, think that it refers to the conception of Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That event, though, is celebrated at the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25, nine months before Christmas). The Immaculate Conception refers to the condition that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne. We celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8; nine months before is December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. What is Epiphany? Epiphany is a Christian feast celebrating the ‘shining forth’ or revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ.  The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches, and included the birth of Jesus Christ; the visit of the three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) who arrived in Bethlehem; and all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist.  The feast was initially based on (and viewed as a fulfillment of) the Jewish Feast of Lights. This was fixed on January 6.

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