Sunday 27 December 2015

Christmas festivities

We are taking something of a break from blogging over Christmas, but wanted to share some photos of the festivities so that our friends and those of our family who we weren't able to be with this year could have a taste of what we got up to. We had a lovely Christmas, and were lucky enough to be able to spend it with our great friends Paul and Marie as well as with Stuart's Mum, but we missed the rest of our families very much.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day started with a photo shoot for Reggie. I think he knew it was a special day as, having refused earlier in the week to wear the reindeer antlers Sheila brought for him, he was patient enough to keep them on his head for a whole three minutes while we took photographs of him before letting us know that he'd really had enough.

Reggie the Reindeer sitting next to his beautiful portrait (commissioned by Stuart from the amazingly talented artist Jane Darby as a Christmas present to me).
Reggie the Reindeer giving Santa a kiss.
Daddy's boy.
"Can I take these off now?!"
After we'd all had a breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs, bacon and smoked salmon, and we'd unwrapped presents, we grabbed our coats and headed out for a walk. I say we grabbed our coats, but we barely needed them, such was the warmth of the sunshine - indeed, when we drove past the temperature gauge outside the factory on the way into Pescia it read 18C. 

We decided to try some of the Pescia to Collodi walk, but knowing that the start of the walk is very steep, for the sakes of those less steady on their feet, we decided to cut out the first section and instead parked the car on the Monte a Pescia road and did the walk from there. As we parked up, we spotted a female dog running around on the road, and on getting out of the car, she took an immediate shine to Reggie, and vice versa. The dog started walking with us, playing with Reggie, and ended up coming all the way to Collodi with us and back again! It was the first time we'd seen Reggie get on really well with another dog - they played very happily, ran alongside each other, waited for each other, and Reggie even whined when we put him back in the car at the end of the walk and drove off - a true friendship.

Santa's ready for a walk!

Little donkey, little donkey, on the dusty road... (in Collodi)

Reggie and his new girlfriend.

It was getting on for 2pm when we got home, which meant it was time to turn our attentions to cooking Christmas dinner. The first task was to look for parsnips in the garden. We'd planted some months ago, and knew that they had grown to some extent, but had no idea whether they would have yielded anything sizeable or edible. We found some rather stunted, but perfectly edible parsnips, which we were thrilled to be able to add to our dinner - parsnsips are a rarity in shops around here!

Santa in the veg garden (picking parsnips).
Rainbow cauliflower

Home grown (if a little stunted) parsnips.
"Hasselhoff" potatoes.
Almost ready for lunch.
Starter: Warm pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad.

Main: Turkey roulades with hasselback (Hasselhoff) potatoes, sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts, and rainbow cauliflower.
We sat down to eat at a little after 4pm and made short work of the delicious food we'd cooked (thank you Delia for the fail-safe recipes).

What do you do on Christmas evening when presents have been opened, more food than you thought possible has been stuffed into your mouths, and you are fairly well oiled with wine and prosecco? Construct a nativity scene from wine and prosecco corks of course!! In these parts, cribs or presepe are the big thing at Christmas. Every shop, bar, restaurant and business has a crib in their window display, each of the four quarters of the town has its own version, as does every village and hamlet, and of course we even had the 'living' crib before Christmas with real animals and people playing the parts in the nativity story. After having seen so much "cribbage" out and about, we decided we would build one ourselves to rival them all, so out came the glue, the pens, the ribbon box, and out flowed our creativity.

Creativity begins.

Artists at work.


A hive of Christmas-fuelled activity (or alcohol-fuelled nativity, I'm not sure which).

Adding a back light in the cave.

Assembling the main characters.

Lit by lighting professional Paul.

By the time we'd finished assembling and photographing our crib scene, time had marched on and our creative juices were spent so we spent the rest of the evening watching Christmas films before retiring to bed a little before midnight after another lovely Christmas day.

Boxing day

After the mild sunny weather on Christmas Day, Boxing Day turned it all around with a very chilly start, frost on the terraces and fog in the valley bottom. Stuart and I took Reggie for a walk along the river in the morning, and the fog was so thick that we could barely see him when he sprinted off ahead. It was strange weather day like several we have had recently, where it was beautifully clear and sunny up on our hill, yet the valley bottom was shrouded in a thick coat of fog.

After we'd come back from our walk and all the Smiths had assembled, we decided to take a quick potter around Pietrabuona village before heading out for lunch in Montecarlo. 

Pietrabuona was in the sunshine by the time we arrived, and we were able to look back at our house and admire our terraces from afar. 

As we left Pietrabuona, we descended down the hill back into thick fog - not the best of days for visiting Montecarlo, which usually affords wonderful views across the plains - but as we climbed upwards again towards the little hilltop town, we found that Montecarlo was poking out of the mist and while the views were nowhere near as clear as usual, they had a very mystical, magical quality as the mist swirled around beneath us.


After a delicious lunch at our favourite friendly restaurant in Montecarlo, La Terrazza, we had a slow wander around the town before heading towards Pescia for a visit to the Phillipses.

We spent a lovely couple of hours with Chris, Sue and the boys before realising it was time to head home, light the fire and reassure Reggie that we hadn't abandoned him. The evening was once again spent relaxing and enjoying the company of family and friends in the true Christmas spirit.