Advent Calendar Christmas Memories Italian Holiday Foods

December 5, 2009 at 06:02 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy | Leave a comment
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Growing up in Italy, Valentino remembers the wonderful Christmases with his family. They kept the tradition of the 7 Fishes for Christmas dinner. They would all go to Midnight Mass together on Christmas Eve at the small church near his home. Only a few doors from their house, the family would all walk together. Christmas Day all the extended family would gather for a huge feast. Mama Concetta had spent hours cooking for everyone. Although the family was quite poor in Post WWII Italy in the early 1950s, he remembers the food at Christmas always seeming to fill the table to overflowing!

There would be the traditional fried smelts, small fish dipped in flour and fried. Then vinegar and garlic would be sautéed for a moment and poured warm over the smelts. Bacala (dried cod) was served along with big platters of steamed mussels. There would be fresh anchovies with basil and lemon, calamari in oil and fried, perhaps a white clam sauce over pasta. Naturally there would be huge bowls of Seafood Fra Diavolo.

We still try to keep this tradition for our family. Many times over the years we were not always able to afford all the fish varieties but we would spend time in the kitchen making the seven dishes with what we had. We live in Florida so our sons would go fishing and shrimping with their dad. They would also catch crabs so we would manage to save a nice assortment for the feast! When our finances began to improve we added stuffed lobster tails to our menu too!

Advent Calendar Christmas Memories Outdoor Decorations

December 5, 2009 at 00:16 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy | 1 Comment
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As a child I remember always going on wonderful drives with the whole family piled in the car to see the Christmas lights. Living in Connecticut, we usually had snow and it was always so beautiful to the multi=colored lights reflected on the snow! One of our homes shared a steep downhill driveway with the next door neighbor (my father’s business partner). They strung a great long set of Santa with his sleigh and reindeer across the driveway between the two houses. It was made of a vinyl or plastic that lit up. We loved that decoration! Unfortunately the older plastics did not last as long. The cold and the changes in temperature took their toll eventually.

When Valentino and I moved to Florida we wanted to keep that type of Christmas spirit alive. We covered our house in lights ala Clark Griswald in Christmas Vacation! Valentino grew up in Italy so the presepi was always important to him. He built a beautiful 8 foot display on our front porch for all the neighbors to come and see complete with a replica of Bethlehem. Each evening he would entertain the younger children with the Christmas story, moving the figures about the display – showing them how the kings traveled to Bethlehem to see The Babe! The figures were Fontanini and non-breakable so he would let the children touch! After all Christmas is for children! Within a couple years all the neighbors began a friendly competition with us putting out more and more elaborate displays of lights! Then about 15 years ago we moved to our current home. We began again to decorate the outside – both front and backyards! We lost our huge oak tree this year to lightning but in years past we strung lights all through the tree – I say we but it was my sons who would climb into the top branches to hang the lights!

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Christmas Cards

December 4, 2009 at 23:44 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy | Leave a comment
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Musical Card from Italy

Musical Card from Italy

 Every year we would write out Christmas Cards. My mother would hang them on windows or doors to show them off. A few times she also used a small mailbox to hold them but then they would be tucked inside so that wasn’t as much fun. Often she would stand them opened on cabinets to be seen too. She always was organized with lists that she had checked off who sent the year before or not. After all she was writing out a couple hundred to family, friends, neighbors, and dad’s clients and business associates too! When dad retired, the list shortened as it did as postage began the creep upwards in price.

I remember getting wonderful cards from my grandmother every year. She loved to write letters and send cards every chance she got so at Christmas she would send us each our own special cards. The tradition carried on as my children were born too. Over the years although I tried to save them, most were destroyed in floods from a hurricane!

Now each year I sit and write out my own cards, usually Thanksgiving weekend. Like my mother, I prefer to have them in the mail by the first of December – I figure they’re fun to enjoy all month that way! As I receive our cards, I have tape ready and hang them on a door for everyone to see and read and enjoy. They become part of our decorations!

My favorites are from friends that I haven’t seen in years but still gab with on the phone or write to semi-often. We have been friends since childhood and it is wonderful to reminisce together!

The two cards here are from a nephew and his family in Italy. I have saved them because he and the family are so precious to us! The yellow card is a fantastic one that plays a Christmas Carol when it is opened! The other is an elegant postcard with such a gorgeous picture.  

Postcard from Italy

Monday Madness – La Befana

November 23, 2009 at 15:18 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Fun Reminders of Italy, Italy, Madness Monday, memories, Spiritual Walk | 4 Comments
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It may seem a bit early to many but for me it is typical. It is the week of Thanksgiving – and while I am thinking of all the blessings in my life in anticipation of Thursday, I am also thinking about Christmas. Like most Christians, I realize I am blessed most because of God’s gift of His Son – the Babe who was born Christmas morn!

So now you ask what this possibly has to do with Monday Madness or La Befana. Well, to be honest, I am feeling a lot like La Befana this year, more than ever as a matter of fact! La Befana is the Italian version of Santa Claus – although children also know Babo Natale. The Italian children all anxiously await the visit of La Befana. La Befana was an older woman who spent her life cleaning and cooking with her broom not far away from her grasp. Finally came the evening that 3 Wise Men stopped at her door. Greeting them with her broom in hand, she refused to go with them on their search for the Babe. After all she had cleaning and sweeping to do! Suddenly a few moments after they left, she realized what she had been asked. They were searching for the Baby Jesus! How could sweeping possibly be more important than that?! She ran after them, fast as she was able. Suddenly her broom took her aloft and she flew over rooftops searching to no avail. So now year after year she flies out again in search leaving small gifts in children’s stockings in hopes she finds the Babe!

Monday Madness? Yes indeed. See, it is holiday time and I am in full meltdown mode already. I am the world’s best list maker. I think I’ve mentioned before how writing lists helps me to calm through organization. Seeing it in writing means I can manage in smaller bites, crossing off as I go along. So here I am. List Time. The Thanksgiving menu has been rewritten at least three times and I have no idea why. It never varies from year to year. I suspect that is the problem. I really REALLY want to add something new. This year we decided to eliminate one item. I KNOW that will be a mistake that we will hear about for years to come – 2009 was the Thanksgiving WITHOUT lasagna. There ARE two turkeys and a ham though! Course there’s also half the friend’s list to feed! Why should I feel so frazzled, already worrying about decorating for Christmas? It is family tradition here in the Di Crocco household: the Saturday after Thanksgiving is DECORATE DAY! Out come boxes and boxes of decorations. Everything is unwrapped from the tissue paper and Bubblewrap™, lovingly placed out to think about Christmases past and people associated with each decoration. So many were from my grandmother and mother or from special friends. Every year meant a new ornament for each child, dated and signed with their name.

But back to Monday Madness. This year I am thinking more in terms of how blessed we are as a family. We have had our share of tragedies and sorrows along with the joy. We have family members out of work and struggling. Bills go up while paychecks remain static. Yet, I do have a job. It is one that gives me pride. It’s not one that pays enough to cover what I want covered but I am so much more blessed than others. In the midst of all the holiday frenzy and complaining about how much I have to do without enough time or money, I suddenly am forced to stop. Have I become lost like La Befana? Has sweeping the cobwebs become more important than remembering what the upcoming season is really about and what is really important? This year I want Monday Madness to settle to Calm, Peace, and Tranquility. Not just for me but for everyone. If I must rush from place to place, task to task. Let it be to share the Gift I have been blessed with. Not just to witness of my personal spiritual walk by testifying verbally. Rather, let me share my faith and my values by my deeds, my actions, my sense of peace, by love. Let me show love instead of, in spite of, and in the very face of hatred. Let me now unlike La Befana be willing and able to drop my broom.

Another Blog and Changes Here

November 22, 2009 at 16:30 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Current Events, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories, Political Opinions, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have decided to make some changes to my blogging habits – hopefully for the better! This blog is going to be for things related primarily to my Italian research and all things Italian genealogy related. I have started another blog Valentino’s  Wife that I hope you will all visit and subscribe to. I also hope it will be a place to generate more discussion between all of us! It will have similar limits to use such as this blog – everyone is welcome and invited to comment but I want everyone to be respectful of everyone else. Although I prefer to keep it open, please remember sometimes children come along possibly unsupervised so no outright obscenities please!!! We are supposed to be the adults! Ha!

Valentino’s Wife will be a bit more loosley organized in certain ways. We will take a more open approach to discussing events, politics, religion, family, recipes, travel — whatever strikes our fancy – and by ‘our’ I mean all of us. I want your input too! If there is sometihing of interest you want to talk about – tell me! We won’t quite be an open forum but similar in that I will make a post and hopefully all of you will join the conversation! In any event – the posts there will not be rehashes of what is here so visit both – and feel free to join in!

Treasure Chest Thursday – Memories

November 20, 2009 at 03:51 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Treasure Chest Thursday | Leave a comment
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Thursday is always Treasure Chest Day for Carnival of Genealogy fans. This Thursday, November 19th, was bittersweet for me. My own father was born on November 19th – he’s been gone since 1983 and I still miss him as if it were this year! He died way too young with no warning for any of us. None of us had a chance to say goodbye because it was so unexpected. I was blessed in that we spoke about twenty minutes earlier – and to my everlasting horror/macabre sense of humor, our last conversation including mentioning death. He was going to pick up his grandson and go to Dunkin Donuts and then home so they could ‘supervise’ a construction crew together. I laughingly told my dear father, “Oh Dad! Some day I am going to bury you with Dunkin Donuts! They sure are your favorites!” Twenty minutes later I received that awful phone call. As we raced first to my parent’s home and then to the hospital chasing the ambulance, I replayed that conversation a million times over! A few moments later I would go in after he was gone to comb his hair and kiss him goodbye.

But somewhere in this great universe, God still watches over us and knows when we are hurting and He always gives us beauty from ashes. Our tears of sorrow are exchanged for tears of joy. For me that joy came as my beautiful granddaughter Juliana. She was born on her great grandpa’s birthday! Today was her fifth birthday. All five of my granddaughters are beautiful individuals and each gives us immense pleasure. But it is Juliana who helps me see joy and love when my mind courses over sad memories. On a day when I could easily revert to sadness, she is hope for the future! So this Thursday my treasure chest is overflowing with love, memories, and tears!

Day of The Dead – We Remember Il Morti

November 2, 2009 at 11:03 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, DiCrocco, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, memories, Tombstone Tuesday | 2 Comments
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Mama e Papa

Mama e Papa

 In Italy, All Saints Eve or Day of the Dead is  day of remembrance and honoring the dead. There is some slight confusion or mingling of the two days – November 1st celebrates the saints and November 2nd is to actually honor the dead. I figured today I would explain to those not familiar with some of the Italian traditions about cemeteries in Italy. Land is at a premium in Italy – available land is needed for farms and housing. Each town though has a walled cemetery usually set outside the main part of town. Inside the walls of the cemetery are considered consecrated land having been blessed by the priest. There is usually an area where smaller metal or wooden crosses adorn the graves of those who cannot afford larger headstones. Headstones in Italy are often works of art with beautiful sculptures on them. Many also have an encased photograph of the deceased. The walls of the cemetery usually are also crypts for those who choose not to be buried in the ground. After approximately 20 years families will reuse the graves for others in the family. Bones of the buried are moved to what is called a bone room housed in the basement area of the chapel. This may seem morbid but is actually a matter of family honor. On this day once a year, everyone goes to the cemetery and honors their deceased ancestors! Flowers are everywhere including at the chapel. Families visit the graves often and bring flowers but this is a special day for everyone. Mass and prayers are offered up for all of the deceased. Sadly we Americans do not have anything of this nature and it is a shame. Our children are not taught to remember those who have gone before us. There is not an emphasis put on valuing what our ancestors did for us. In a land such as Italy where children understand that land and homes have passed from generation to generation, children learn of the sacrifices of their ancestors on behalf of family. It is the respect for family and history that endears Italy to so many of us. It is the call upon many of us to want to return to this sense of family and remembering with pride and gratitude that we understand forms the underpinnings of a civilization that will survive instead of merely exist until something else comes along to replace it.

So it was for me as my mother in law accepted and welcomed me to her family. I was never treated as only a daughter in law but I was loved as a daughter, a member of the family! Of course family has disagreements and times of strife but they are always family, always there to help, to liten, to offer advicde, to love! Famiglia!

Data Back Up Day November 1st

November 1, 2009 at 04:28 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories | Leave a comment
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Today is Data Backup Day. In honor of this Geneabloggers is sponsoring a contest for all bloggers writing on the subject. Whether or not one is interested in contests, one should worry and therefore learn how to back up their data! We live in Florida – home to hurricanes and tornados. Anyone using a computer is running a risk of losing their information if they don’t take time to back it up! My personal desktop computer finally died an unhealthy and untimely death when least expected to. I have had several laptops over the years also die at inopportune moments! This journey became a forced lesson in backing up data for me! My present laptop is obviously a more secure one with hard drive protection against sudden shocks and drops. It is also password and fingertip scanned locked. Those afford a slight security advantage while travelling. However if stolen, my information could conceivably disappear too! SO I have taken time for contingency planning as if I were a major company. After all my genealogy, my books, and my blogs are my life’s work! First I use USB flash drives. Each is labeled and dedicated to a specific file type. Some contain all my photographs, some genealogy files, some research documents, etc. I also back up and save all files to CD. Each CD is labeled and stored away safely. Finally I also use a portable hard drive to back up all files. That is what I keep for myself. But the reality is that if I kept all of this just at my own home, it would be destroyed along with computers in any weather disaster or fire. So I have gone a bit further. Each of our sons also has copies of photographs and genealogy files as does another family member. Also some files are stored online. Recreating all of my work of the last 15 years would not be easy but it could be done as a result of contingency planning. All of this also includes my blogs. Each post is saved along with photographs and accompanying work sources! Printed copies of all my work also exist and copies kept my more than one person. Will I ever need to use any of this? Will I ever need to use any of this? Perhaps not although thanks to computer crashes, I have used it before. Waiting until I did need it would have been too late! I am now actively scanning all older family photographs. I have saved all our children’s photos but now I am scanning older generations. I realized we own some of the only existing photographs of deceased family members. One disaster would mean these would be lost forever to future generations. My scanning will include old 35 mm slides as well as making some digital captures of old movies and VCR tapes. This is of course very time consuming but well worth the memories they will provide for the future generations. They probably will not have access to old 8 mm projectors or 35 mm slide projectors. Even VCRs are disappearing from most homes! Passing on DVD copies of these older relics will allow great greats to hear as well as see ancestors! This will bring family to life for them in ways I can only wish existed for me of those from one or two hundred years ago! In doing this, it will be important to not trust only one original copy. Disaster can strike at any time and it would be a shame to not be able to save these memories! Think in terms of sudden storms or wildfires such as California has suffered through – or perhaps earthquakes! No area of the US is safe from some form of weather or climate emergency – in fact every country has such disasters! Be prepared! BACK UP THOSE PRECIOUS RESEARCH FILES AND PHOTOGRAPHS! Back up all of your work including blogs and remember to save a file with source data too!

Looking Back – Monday Madness 9/28/09

September 28, 2009 at 00:01 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Madness Monday, memories | Leave a comment
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One of the hardest things for me in blogging is to look back over my life objectively. It’s not that I don’t – especially every time we hear another horror story or train wreck of a celeb life story. I consider myself normal (most of the time anyway) and reasonably attractive (except if you catch me sans makeup and curling iron). I even consider myself relatively intelligent (although my sons will swear in every argument that I am not, convinced I know NOTHING). I’m even friendly and mostly happy so why is it so difficult to look backwards objectively?

My childhood was an extremely happy one. By most standards it was a blessed one too. The only thing I was ever denied was a horse of my own and my parents were probably right about that! My toy box was full, my book shelves, over full, my closet over stuffed, and the food pantry was too.

My mother was more than just a stay at home mom. She kept an immaculate home that I still can’t match even at her age now. She was a sensational cook. Her cooking skills were written up in the newspapers on more than one occasion and her parties were the ones everyone wanted an invite to. She was an award winning floral arranger and an artist. Her poetry was honored and treasured. Name the organization and she served in some official capacity at least once for them. All of this while never neglecting her family or husband. I still wonder how she found the time and the energy to accomplish half of what she did so effortlessly and unselfishly. Amazingly she was not one to toot her own horn; rather, she was humble and gentle. Her friends adored her and her enemies? Well I doubt she had any – at least no one admitted to being one!

I’m not sure I can say the same about myself although I am embarrassed to call attention to myself usually. I’m sure I have managed to make a few enemies along the way although I do have wonderful friendships that I have kept since childhood. I wasn’t a perfect child by any means and I know I tested my parents and their limits. My parents gave us limits and standards and moral codes and spiritual values to live by. My grandmother passed one gentle spiritual statement on to her children that my mother in turn passed to us: If the Lord were to walk in the room right now, would you be embarrassed? Well, He’s already here! That pretty much settled most issues for me before they became issues.

I am willing to brag about being a good wife and mother. I’m learning to be a good grandmother and a decent mother in law too. I’m a very good sister in law. But all of those titles are the result of having a great husband, good sons, darling granddaughters, precious daughters in law, and awesome in laws. As I look back it is hard to find anything to complain about. Rather I am astonished at how it all sounds unreal when I find the truth is more impressive even than my memories. I have been and continue to be blessed and grateful for those blessings!

Wordless Wednesday 9 – 23 – 09

September 23, 2009 at 16:30 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Wordless Wednesday | 1 Comment
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Another of my dad

Another of my dad

                                                                                                          With his mom

Window Perch

On Steps

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