Saturday, 25 December 2010

Tom Smith

For our Christmas dinner we always have Christmas crackers. Tom Smith on a trip to Paris in 1840 noticed the Bonbon of sugared almonds wrapped in tissue paper. He decided to enhance this by placing a small love motto into the package he was able to create interest in this new novelty item. Then one day while thinking how he could improve on his product he noticed the cracking sound of a log on the fire and this led to the creation of the first crackers we know today. He invented a cracking mechanism that created a pop as the wrapping of the Bonbon was broken. The company was originally in Clerkenwell, East London and moved later to Finsbury Square. The Company has a Royal Warrant since 1847 as purveyors of Crackers to the Royal Family.

Today's crackers, have a paper hat inside, a small novelty item, a silly joke or riddle and may have other items depending on the quality of the cracker you bought. They are a wonderful tradition at the Christmas table.

Christmas day 2010 ROME

The Festivities started last night when our old friend and colleague of many years B. invited us to her house  for Christmas Eve dinner, she is an excellent cook and a great and elegant hostess, in a way rarely seen in this day and age.  We started the evening with a Jeroboam of Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Champagne and with little hors d' oeuvre of seafood. Then for dinner on a beautiful table, Foie Gras with more champagne. The main dish was turkey with vegetables and dessert a Panettone stuffed with pistachio ice cream, I had never seen such a thing, absolutely wonderful. We drove home down Via Nomentana which was almost deserted of cars in a Rome that is quiet and silent, in a way so unusual for this city.

Today we rose late, took care of the puppies and then opened a bottle of Champagne and had panettone while we opened our gifts, I gave Will 2 paintings of Rome by a Canadian artist, scenes of the city not often seen but known to Will. I received a beautiful Cashmire scarf and 3 books, one on a specialized topic of Roman Aqueducts by A.Trevor Hodge, published by Duckworth UK. Of the numerous aqueducts built by the Romans to supply the Eternal City with water quite a few still work. What is amazing is the description of the team of maintenance men needed to keep the system going and the incredible feat of engineering in an age when knowledge of mathematics and construction was still rudimentary.

W and I also got a beautiful drawing of the basilica of St-Francis in Assisi on this the 800th anniversary of the founding of the order by St-Francis.

Lunch was more Foie Gras and rack of lamb, I enjoyed it a lot and W did a wonderful job, as always, in the preparation.

Foie Gras is my weakness, I really cannot resist it.

Tomorrow a few friends may drop by for a drink, otherwise it will be quiet.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Almost Christmas

Well we are almost there, the tree is up, Will again did a wonderful job on the tree and despite my having to be careful, I got to put the star on the tree as is the custom in our house every year. This is probably the one single thing I like the most about preparing for Christmas. So many souvenirs in those accumulated decorations from different parts of the world, all chosen from many cities or gifts from friends, some from Neiman Marcus, our favorite discount store. We use to shop there in the days of Stanley Marcus and Alfred Neiman, now it belongs to some other company, I think it's Federated, still a nice store.

This year has been a bit slow off the mark, work at the office kept me really busy and many people are away, so we will not see them during the Holidays.  But on the 24th we are going to have a very nice dinner with friends, then on the 25th we are having Carré d'agneau, the 26th drinks with friends and possibly another dinner at a restaurant in Rome just entre nous with 4 other people.  For New Year's Eve we are having dinner at home with old friends and we all share in dish preparation.

The New Year will be with us all too soon. But for now let's play some Christmas music from Southern Poland, Mazowsze Polskie Koledy i Pastoralki and from Michael Praetorius, Lutheran Christmas Morning Mass of 1620 and enjoy a glass of two of Champagne.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

pre-Xmas blues

Friday night,
Well so far this year, I cannot say I am excited by the Festive Season. Maybe the recent surgery, too much work at the office and the uncertainty about next year, still no news, where will we be next year at this time, someone in Personnel for sure knows. Maybe once the tree is up, things will look different or as we get closer to Christmas, who knows.
                                    Christmas Market, Bologna, december 2010.

Anyway I am sort of melancholic now, I just can't get into the spirit, many of the people around me are also tired and anxious at work over technological changes which appear overwhelming.

Sunday morning,
Now the tree is up in the living room thanks to the help of our friend Lionel, who very kindly came over, he lives next block up. I am unable to help W. with this chore this year due to me recent surgery. We went for lunch today at one of your neighborhood restaurant with our good friends Larry and Walter, so we could see them before Xmas since they are going away for the Holidays to southern Italy, we had a very good lasagna as a first course, Primi and as a second course, Secundi, a veal chop with one large artichoke Roman Style, with the mint typical of Rome, mentuccia. The weather is grey, cold and humid today, stores are open but mostly empty, Xmas sales do not appear to be on the swing like years past, maybe it has to do with the economic slump here.
                                    Our tree 2010 in Rome

Next door in Greece snow in Athens, lots of it, I knew it sort of snowed in Greece in winter, they have ski resorts on Mount Parnassus and just a sprinkle of snow in Athens, but this time there is a lot of snow and apparently it will stay at least until after Xmas because of the cold front in the area,  how do people keep warm, homes are not equipped for the cold.

Venice is under water, up to a person's waist line, which is very high, it's salt water from the Adriatic and you cannot go anywhere because you cannot see where the sidewalk ends and the canals begin. It is a disaster but it is not in the news, strange really.

Our Holiday visitor arrives on Tuesday from Paris and this coming week we have one Cocktail party and one dinner party in E.U.R. that neighborhood built in 1938-39 by Mussolini outside of Rome. We had a beautiful Holiday dinner party at the Residence on Via di Porta Latina, the roast beef was excellent and so was the turkey. Both H.E. and Madame have outdone themselves, it really felt like home, Chef Paul as always was superb.

Tomorrow 13 December is Santa Lucia, the Feast of Lights to mark the Winter Solstice.
                               Italian Carabinieri in their Sunday best

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Since November 1978

We met in Ottawa on 23 or 25 November 1978, I say this because there is some debate on the date itself. However we have been together ever since. So many years, so many trips, so many souvenirs.

Happy Anniversary, Auguri a Noi !!!!

Douce France, cher pays de mes ancêtres

Convalescing at home, I have some time on my hands, so I started to look up some family genealogy and found that certain first names in my family keep reappearing over and over again from one generation to the next. I was not really aware of this tradition in my family.  We now have 12 generations in Canada. One ancestor Nicolas Philippe was born in Normandy in 1633 in the small village of Illeville sur Montfort, on the Eure River, population today of 720 persons. He marries in 1650 with Marie Lebel who is from Gruchet le Valasse another small village, it is known for its old Cistercian Monastery, near the Seine River, population 1200 persons.

They have one son Jean Philippe who will immigrate to New France (Canada). He is illeterate like most people of his time being a poor peasant but he can sign his name and hires himself out to work for another farmer in the area of Quebec City, this is how with a work contract you could then immigrate to Canada. It appears that he married Marie Coipel from the Parish of St-Jacques de la Boucherie in Paris but then his marriage is annuled in 1680 by the same Quebec City notary Pierre Duquet de la Chenaye who appears to be the notary of many other families in the area and who will also prepare legal documents for the other branch of my family the Hudon dit Beaulieu.

Jean Philippe Lebel dit Beaulieu will remarry in 30 July 1685 in Charlesbourg near Quebec City with Catherine Galarneau. He dies in Quebec City in January 1703. This is the ancestor who takes on the surname of Lebel dit Beaulieu, he will use both the family name of his father Philippe and add the family name of his mother Lebel and then a third surname Beaulieu. His children will drop the family name Philippe and keep only Lebel dit Beaulieu. Upon his death in 1703 his wife will remarry a man by the name of Savard who has 7 kids of his own. Her children from her first marriage will keep the name Lebel dit Beaulieu.

Our other ancestor Pierre Hudon dit Beaulieu of the village Notre-Dame de Chemillé, Cholet, Angers, Maine et Loire, is born in 1648, from the age of 15 in 1663 he works as a domestic for a gentleman named Nicolas Marsolet de Saint-Aignan, said to be a colleague of Samuel de Champlain. As for the Beaulieu surname which is the one that will become the family name, it apparently comes from a forest known as la fôret de Beaulieu, near the village of Beaulieu sur Layon in Maine et Loire and this is the reference Pierre Hudon dit Beaulieu will use.
Church of Notre-Dame de Chemillé (old Church XII century), Cholet

He comes to Canada as a soldier with the Compagnie of Grandfontaine in the Regiment of Carignan (which is a Regiment whose original purpose was the protection of the King's person), sailing from LaRochelle on the French Royal Navy ship L'Aigle d'Or de Brouage on the 13 May 1665 and arriving in Quebec City on 19 August 1665, he is 17 years old.  He will participate in battles against the Iroquois (Agniers), will participate in the building of Fort Chambly near Montreal. The Iroquois are defeated, 5 villages are burned and Albany is threathened, Peace is established and by the fall of 1666 he is a baker in Quebec City and then a farmer, he becomes wealthy, owning cows and bulls, has 2 rifles and land 10 hectares fronting the St-Lawrence river which at the time was considered a large piece of land. We also know that he distinguished himself in battle when General Sir William Phipps attacked Quebec City with a British Squadron in October 1690, Louis de Buade Conte de Frontenac is Governor General of New France at the time. The British are defeated and will not attack Canada until the 7 year war in 1759.

Pierre Hudon dit Beaulieu and Marie-Ange Gobeil will marry in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Quebec City in July 1676, they lived up to 1681 in La Bouteillerie, Quebec on land given to him by Sieur Jean-Baptiste François Des Champs de la Bouteillerie, who is a French Aristocrat and a Major of the Garrison of Quebec City. He will die in April 1710 at Rivière Ouelle. He and his wife will have 12 children and they in turn will all have many children.

On my mother's side of her family, their ancestor Pierre Gougeon was born in 1659 in Aubigny in Vendée this is the Pays de la Loire region near the Atlantic Coast and the famous Sables d'Olone beach, he was a master mason, he married in Montreal, Marie-Catherine Danis in 1686. I remember La Vendée, in 1969 my parents and us kids visited the region, it was very green countryside, the Loire river and very old French villages, local markets, etc.
A plaque to an ancestor Jean or Giovanni Goujon in Bologna.

So on my father's side of the Family, first names are usually Jean, Philippe, Louis and Laurent.
On my mother's side, Pierre is common. It is as if someone is keeping track of the names of the ancestors and is passing it along to the next generation.
The name Laurent is derived from the Parish church St-Laurent a reminder of their home parish in France. Strangely enough they settle in St-Laurent Parish in Canada. So my family has lived in Canada for  345 yrs.