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 Heartbreak for Italy!

June 30, 2009 at 15:06 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces | Leave a comment
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Based on reports from Corriere della Sera Italy has one more horror to deal with – does the old adage/superstition of bad news in threes hold true. I pray this time it does – twice for Abruzzi and now one for Viareggio make three. This lovely town has been rocked with a train accident resulting in a horrendous fire and at least 15 dead and untold damage. We have often traveled through this area – it is a beautiful area with warm friendly people! We pray for their recovery – and for those burned in the resulting explosions and fires. Please visit the links for my postings on Abruzzi to again offer donations to the Italian Red Cross to help the folks here. They are needing help as well as prayers — and they deserve both from us!

More Tears for L’Aquila

June 23, 2009 at 15:10 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Italy | 1 Comment
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Today I ran across this article while surfing through news resports overseas: It seems beautoful L’Aquila has again been hit by an earthquake. It does not seem to be only an aftershock but was a 4.6 register on the Richter scale. We  need to all remember these folks in our prayers and if possible continue to contribute to the funds financially to help them.

Please check back to other of my posts to follow links for helping and for those news reports:’aquila…-stan…moving-forward/

and also at:

Safe charity to send donations: CROCE ROSSA

 Originally I linked us to Bleeding Espresso  where you can find links to information also.


Lessons from the Brick Ovens of Italy

June 10, 2009 at 18:13 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Italian Cooking, Spiritual Walk | 2 Comments
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Brick Ovens of Tollo
Brick Ovens of Tollo

Many homes in Italy boast brick ovens out back. Or they may have been community ovens shared by several homes within the town. For instance my mother in law always baked her bread midweek on her day for the neighborhood oven. The oven is no longer standing, long ago fallen and then demolished. Valentino remembers well with his siblings how there was one person who guarded the locks and the wood, and another who held the yeast for everyone to use!

The flavor and shape of the bread varies from region to region. My sister in law describes the bread from Tollo as being dry and lifeless. She and I offer that perhaps it is lacking the addition of love when baked! The bread in Abruzzi is made without salt. Talk about hard to get used to! Most of my other sister in law’s life, she baked her own bread because she could not get used to bread without salt. Now that she is older, she buys her bread but often apologizes for the lack of flavor. Most Italians baked the bread in wood ovens for a couple of basic reasons we Americans have never given much thought to. Europeans in general are much more cautious with the earth’s limited resources and therefore take greater care not to abuse them. The brick ovens are heated with wood, the fires banked and stoked to conserve the heat in the bricks while the bread bakes slowly. The bread bakes slower and longer resulting in a thicker harder crust with a softer and moister inside. Yet this softer inside is not the mushy consistency of most American white bread. None of the bread is wasted even as it goes stale. Stale bread is another excuse for bread soup – if anyone is so fortunate to have bread left over long enough to go stale! Most folks will sop up the sauce after eating their pastas and also dip in the oil and balsamic vinegar dressings from the salads. Occasionally though some bread will remain and be made into bread soup on the last day. Bread soup is made by simmering a vegetable broth with onions and pouring it over the stale bread pieces, and then topped with lots of parmesan cheese. Talk about leftovers tasting like an extravagant meal! Nothing fancy but nothing wasted! It is the waste not, want not philosophy that Italians live by. Bread is now also sold in bakeries but never in the plastic one use bags we Americans seem to favor too much. Shoppers use large canvas bags, cotton breathable bags, or even large baskets carries on their arms.

San Croce Old Oven

San Croce Brick Oven

San Croce Brick Oven


Cavesso New Oven

Cavesso New Oven

All of this brings to mind our walk as Christians and as citizens of this world. We Christians should be taking our time to be slow baked in the fires of the Holy Spirit, slowly developing that thick skin to avoid the slings and the temptations of the world. But we also need the softer inside – not mushy – but soft enough to maintain the heart of the Lord for others without phony sentimental mushiness. We should also be concerned about the earth’s resources. Isn’t that also part of caring for widows and orphans and others less fortunate than ourselves? If we spend less on wastefulness and more on charity, maybe we would also be witnessing more to others? I guess those differing bread recipes are so much like us. It takes many denominations and many ways of looking at the needs of others to really share the Word. We all love Him but we often go about worshipping in different ways. Not wrong. Just different. Going back to the idea of community ovens: aren’t they remindful of churches? What better way to reach people than to be there at the community hearth to mingle, to share, to be instead of hiding at home alone? There are the keepers of the flame and the leavening to help each of us! Hmmm. Sounds familiar too? Gee. I thought we Americans were supposed to be the leaders? Maybe we still have some learning by example too?

L’Aquila… standing still, hopefully moving forward

May 30, 2009 at 16:54 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, Italy | Leave a comment
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L’Aquila.. standing still, hopefully moving forward – a shameless attempt to remind us all not to forget — please, please do not forget! We here stateside need to be reminded because our news agencies are shamelessly busy plugging Hope Change yada yada for Obama and ignoring those who do not fit into those neat little boxes needing help – you know the types: if you do not qualify for stimulus payment bailouts, you are not newsworthy! Well – in my jaded eyes, people who are true victims – not those who made themselves into victims – are more deserving of our remembering them. And true victims are the ones who could not stop what happened to them. The good people of L’Aquila fit that category completely! They had no advance warning – and no way to avoid what happened to them. Maybe the only issue to find fault is that according to news reports (such as found at state less than 5% of the people had insurance against earthquake damage. I personally blame that on the government failing to educate people about homeowners and business insurance. The mentality of many Europeans is that their government will handle it – except after a catastrophe many admit they don’t expect more from their government! At the rate we are all now learning to decide if governments should be socialist or fascist or total democracy/capitalistic or libertarian, we need to step up and help these victims rebuild their lives. Or at least we need to help them on the path to recovery. There are many needs and I hope you all consider doing what you can.

You can check out my previous post: to read about the initial attempts in aid for the victims where I suggest you visit: .  In the United States we can send help via NIAF and overseas use CROCE ROSSA . Another interesting mention is found in the UK news at detailing Berlusconi’s plan to move the G8 Summit to L’Aquila. I am sure there are many problems others are happy to list and carry on over – but I see some upsides to this if handled properly. It will force public attention worldwide on L’Aquila and perhaps force both the Italian government and aid groups to acknowledge work needed to help these folks! Winter in tents is not fun camping – even though Berlusconi is often misunderstood when he attempts wry humor, he was letting us know in his usual sarcastic Italian manner that these folks are not going to be having fun camping forever! A day or two, a week or two, one can jolly each other along and then it is time to get solid plans in motion. That takes money and we need to remember these folks are out of work and running out of money fast! Please please remember them, pray for them, and help them! Thanks!

Heartbreak – UPDATED!

April 6, 2009 at 16:34 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces | 2 Comments
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By now I am sure you have all heard of the horrible earthquake that has hit central Italy – L’Aquilla is a beautiful area and we have family not far from there. Blessedly our family seem to be all accounted for and safe but our heart goes out to those who do not yet know if family is safe and for those who have lost family and friends in this tragedy! Please join us in prayers for everyone: victims and rescuers working tirelessly over the next few days to find any trapped individuals. The recovery will be long and arduous and there will be many needs. As reports come in although we are all struggling financially, please do all you can to help. We will be traveling soon and as we hear of worthy groups, we will post any information we can find!

God bless L’Aquilla – and all of Italy!

UPDATE April 7th: Please visit Bleeding Espresso at – she has some great links to relief organizations that will use your donations to help the people of the Abruzzo earthquake! The death toll is over 200 but the emotional toll is immeasurable in suffering for all the people of Italy! Beautiful relics have been destroyed – villages decimated and lives ruined. This will not be an easy fix – but as always the Italians will dig themselves out and recover with dignity and grace! How much we here in America could learn from them as we watch them take care of one another!

Please remember all of Italy in your prayers!

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