Sunday, November 28, 2010

a thanksgiving to remember

preparation for our thanksgiving meal has been going on all semester because we had been anticipating the largest number of guests yet. we had an estimation of about 70 people after inviting all of our english students and their families, but when all was said and done last night, we had 80 guests...largest number of dinner guests at the bible school ever!

on thursday afternoon, debbie, angela, ermenita, and i peeled and prepared 50 apples and pears for the apple crisp, and made all the dips and the jello salad.

friday afternoon everyone began working...

andrea and jessica decorated
the boys cleaned and moved furniture,

and the rest of the women were in the kitchen. we cooked from 3 until 11 friday night. we prepared everything but the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.
(it was chaotic but so much fun, it really felt like thanksgiving)
(making 2 of leslie's chocolate pies. i stirred each one for 45 minutes each and only one "set up" so i ended up making my mom's chocolate chip pies on saturday)
(using my "love from my kitchen" cookbook that leslie gave me for my birthday, i made 6 homemade pie crusts from my grandmother's old school recipe)
saturday morning, we reported downstairs at 9:30 to begin getting everything together:

jessica and andrea finished all the decorating,
debbie, ermenita, and emily prepared the turkeys, peeled potatoes, and cooked everything,
and the boys finished cleaning the house and then cleaned out one of david's garages.
(this is the after picture of the garage, we forgot a before picture but it was full from ceiling to floor with everything you can imagine. they took everything out, got rid of a lot of it, swept it out, and put it back together like this)
(they found this little guy while cleaning out the garage, we named him sonic and let him go in the backyard. he buried himself in our compost pile, so cute)
meanwhile, angela and i planted all of the plants and flowers we bought almost a month ago. we filled 18 hanging planters, 3 huge concrete planters, and about 10 miscellaneous ceramic pots.
(pansies and sedums)
(half of the 16 hanging planters on the front of the building, the left side of the building mirrors this side. these have ivy, pansies, something called erika, and something that looks like a little dusty green afro. they are all supposed to be winter hardy, but we'll see)
(sedums, they are my favorite and they are everywhere in italy. i'm going to bring these inside eventually)
(our entry way, the little ivy topiaries were there, but we added the planters of bittersweet and the charlie brown christmas tree)
ok, so after we finished and cleaned up outside, i hurried to get ready, and then returned to the kitchen. i made 2 more pie crusts and 2 chocolate chip pies and then joined debbie in the game of musical ovens with the about 20 pans of casseroles, pies, turkeys, and rolls that needed to be cooked/reheated. we hurried to make gravy and whipped cream, and before we knew it, it was 7:30 and there were 80 people in our living room! everything turned out wonderfully and i think everyone had a great time. once we got all the food out we could just relax, and it was so fun to have all of our new italian friends and students together and just enjoying being together and sharing this special meal.

(andrea read the history of thanksgiving to our italian guests since they don't celebrate this holiday. we wanted them to know that it's more than an excuse to eat like a glutton, and why it's special to us today as christians)
(almost 70 of the guests ate in the "classroom", the rest of us ate in the living room)
(our sweet cook, rosa, and her husband, felice. they are the sweetest and i had a blast sitting with them. i almost felt like i was at home with my grandparents)
(ryan with felice and his student valentino)
the last guests left at 11:30

(after the feast, debbie with her feet up, stripping the turkey)
(bags and bags of non-perishable items that we asked our guests to bring for the food pantry at our church, everyone was so generous)
we washed dished for 2 hours and my body was more tired than it has ever been in my whole life, but it was so worth it. i hope it meant as much to our students as it meant to me. people were so grateful and thankful and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. people were giving christmas presents, singing, talking about the food, telling funny stories, playing with kids, making new friends, and planning the next time they would get really felt like a huge family.

that's what i'm thankful for this year...this feeling of family that we have here that makes me feel so comfortable in this home away from "our home". what a blessing!

our menu:
cheese ball
veggie dip
clam dip
ham with cranberry glaze
mashed potatoes and gravy
corn pudding
veggie casserole
sweet potato casserole

pumpkin pie
apple crisp
chocolate pie
pecan pie
jello salad

sweet tea
american coffee

Thursday, November 25, 2010

away we went to vicenza and...pie day at pepperdine

i know it's already thursday but i haven't had a chance to talk about last weekend and we really had a great time!

so last saturday morning, eric, jessica, emily, ryan, and i got up early and rode in "cicio" (emily's small blue panda fiat that she has so lovingly named "cicio" or "chubby little one" in italian) to vicenza. it took us about 3 1/2 hours and we went straight to the house of these lovely people and their 2 beautiful girls
francesco and lorenza
they prepared an amazing lunch for us, including the best lasagna i have had yet in italy...and i have had a lot of lasagna. we had so much fun getting to know them, they are such a wonderfully warm and hospitable family.
so after lunch, francesco led us to the soccer fields where our good friend marco was playing
we first met marco at the youth weekend that we had here at the bible school the first weekend ryan and i were in italy. he is a new christian but he is quickly making a huge impact on his group of friends and the church in vicenza. he speaks english really well but graciously allows us to struggle though italian with him to practice and have him help us. he's really great at soccer too, it was very cold but so fun to watch him play.
after the game, the 5 of us, francesco and his daughter went to the church in vicenza to meet some of the other members, walk around downtown, and eat pizza together. after dinner, we all went up to lindsey's (the avanti worker in vicenza) apartment and sat around talking and getting to know the members of the church. it was such an enjoyable evening and we got to know so many wonderful people. when we all got tired we retired to the houses where we were staying. emily stayed with lindsey, eric and jessica stayed with marco and his mom, and we stayed with this sweet couple
sonia and cristian
they live in verona, another small town a few miles away from vicenza where of course romeo and juliet was set. we stayed up and talked with them for a little bit longer when we got to their house saturday night, but my brain had all but shut off completely and my italian had been exhausted. when i was to the point of grunting and playing charades, we decided to call it a night.
view from their balcony
sunday morning was church at vicenza, obviously, where we met some more people and enjoyed very uplifting lesson.
jessica and i quasi helped lindsey with kids class and quasi provided crowd control, but the kids were really sweet
cute kids from ghana, there are a lot of ghanaians living in vicenza for work and a lot of them go to the church of christ in vicenza
some new friends sonia and begonia
after church we went home with marco and had HANDS DOWN the best meal i have had and probably will have in all of europe. marco's mother was born and raised in spain, has a spanish mother, a german father, swiss grandparents, a brother living in haiti, and has lived in about 10 countries, so needless to say she is well traveled. if the fact that she is fluent in 5 or 6 languages isn't enough, her cooking is the proof! this woman is a genius with food and showed us her heart in this meal. she was the most hospitable hostess i've ever been in the home of, and she was so happy to have us in her home loving her food. man, was i glad too. it was truly amazing. we laughed and ate and laughed and ate until we were all about to pop.
their NINETEEN year old dog, gigi.
(i hope all the dogs in my life live to be this old and still healthy)
after lunch we piled (difficultly, i assure you) back into cicio and made the journey back to firenze in time to prepare for another week of classes and skype my parents.

the other exciting thing this week was on tuesday when jessica, emily, and i got to go to the pepperdine campus in florence to help them make their pies for thanksgiving.

together with a few of the pepperdine students, we made 30 pies (10 apple, 10 pumpkin, 5 blueberry, and 5 pecan)
emily's pumpkin cooling technique
ryan and i spent our thanksgiving morning taking an oral exam in our italian class and the afternoon walking around florence together looking at the christmas lights, sharing a sandwich, enjoying the sunshine (2nd day it hasn't rained in over 2 weeks), stopping to talk to our favorite artist in the piazza of the duomo, and talking about the things we are thankful for (we have a lot).

happy thanksgiving to all and don't forget to tell others you are thankful for them today and everyday

Friday, November 19, 2010

most recent events of avanti italia

i'm sorry so much time is passing between each post, but we seem to be getting even more busy and having even less time for blogging and such. i'm not complaining at all, i love being busy and feeling needed and useful, i'm just apologizing for the lack of multiple detailed blog posts.

anyway, here is what we have been doing lately...

last friday and this wednesday the mayor of scandicci has had lunch with us and the bible school. he is studying english with david because he is coming to the states in december with mona and robbie for their "30 years in italy celebration". he will be speaking in harding's chapel sometime during the first week of december, and then at some of the celebrations for robbie and mona in other cities (i can't remember where). he is so nice and we have really enjoyed having him!
mario (a sweet man that has been going to the church of christ in florence since the 50's) and his dog nancy (pictured here) took us to lunch at his favorite restaurant last saturday. he ordered a fantastic seafood spread for all of us and it was absolutely wonderful. what a kind and generous man! he has already invited ryan and i to his house for christmas.
last sunday after church our friends danielle and luli (ex avanti worker and her albanian husband) wanted to go eat with us and they led us here... yes, they wanted to eat at burger king! don't judge, man those onion rings were good!
after our meal at burger king, ryan and i went into downtown because this week was florentine culture week and there was an exhibit at the duomo and baptistry that we wanted to see. this exhibit was real grass covering the ground all around the baptistry and we wanted to see it sooooo badly. it was supposed to look like it did when it was first built, and we saw it in the newspaper and it looked so cool. well, the exhibit was only there friday and saturday and they had already removed it when we got there on sunday. however, we arrived to find this renaissance parade and stayed to enjoy it. these men were dressed in historical (obviously) costumes and marching and playing instruments. they marched all through the city and ended up in the piazza of the duomo where there is a plaster copy of "david" right now. this plaster david was also part of the florentine culture week, because for thursday and friday of last week, this copy of the david was placed about half way up on the facade of the duomo. yes, it was amazing and we did get to see that but we didn't have the camera at the time.
so after the cultural celebration downtown on sunday, we headed over to the church for a concert by "quartetto metamorphosis". one of the members of this quartet is friends with a friend of robbie and he had them come play for us. we invited all of our english students and everyone we know in florence and scandicci, and there was a really good turnout; there were probably 100 people there! the quartet was awesome, they were kind of jazzy and just so unique. it was so much fun! after the concert we had a chili and cornbread dinner with everyone there and it was a great time for fellowship and getting to know people better. after dinner, we joined again to share italian and english church songs together. different people took turns leading songs and everyone was so enthusiastic and seemed to have a great time, i know we did.
since sunday, we have had a pretty typical week. david has been sick with kidney stones but he seems to be doing better now.

tracy "patterson" and eric kee and their son caden are here in florence visiting and i am loving having them around. tracy was the HUF assistant when i was here 5 years ago and i have so many fun memories with her.

we are busy now preparing for our thanksgiving feast which is next saturday. i think we will be cooking for about 60 people here and we're really excited but there is a lot of preparation. we are doing a presentation for the guests of our feast about what thanksgiving is and why it is especially important to us as christians. we might have some of us dress like pilgrims and indians but you never know.

it has rained every single day this week and is raining now as i type so i still haven't been able to plant the flowers that we bought 2 weeks ago, but maybe one day this week the sun will come out when i am actually here and we can.

tonight we are cleaning and relaxing because we are having a lot of guests this weekend. tomorrow morning early, eric, jessica, emily, ryan and i are going to vicenza for the weekend. there is a church of christ and an avanti italia worker there, lindsey walle. we are going to hang out with her, go to a soccer game of our friend, marco, go to church there sunday, and visit with the members there. it will be fast and furious but i know we will have a lot of fun. we are staying with a family at the church there and i'm excited to meet them!

all in all, things are going very well here and everyday still brings something new and usually wonderful. we are learning a lot about ourselves (good and bad) and why we have been lead here. i see god's love in so many things and am encouraged by family and friends everyday. this time of the year will probably be the hardest because we are thinking of all the fun things we usually do with our families at thanksgiving and christmas, but it will be fun to see what christmas is like here. we also get a 2 week vacation to do whatever we want, and my sweet grandparents have made it possible for us to travel. we feel so blessed and as always feel very grateful for the prayers and sweet words of encouragement. thank you all for everything!

oh, and in the free time we do have, i have started painting. i think since i don't have my sewing machine here and haven't been able to sew or make things with felt, i needed to do something creative or i was going to explode. watercolor seemed like the most feasible thing because there are so many beautiful things to paint, so many art stores here with cheap supplies, oh and i live with an artist so i have a personal art teacher. here is the view from our balcony, and i think you'll recognize the other one. let me know what you think, i'm obviously a beginner and open for critiques.