Fall Entertaining Series | Tablescapes

Julie Jurden
The holiday season is around the corner and we want to help simplify yours with what we hope will be inspirational ideas for entertaining and gift giving so you can focus on what really matters; time with family and friends.

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Italian Christmas Markets Create the Magic of the Season

Julie Jurden

Christmas MarketsWhen most of us think about the Christmas markets, we tend to conjure images of the German influenced Christkindlmarkets. You can find one of these during the holiday season in most major U.S. cities as well as across Europe.  However, Italy also has it’s own magical markets known as Mercatino di Natale.

The markets of Italy are also grounded in German and Austrian roots, but Italians have adopted this tradition and made it their own.

Typically much smaller, and by default, more intimate than their German counterparts, Italian Christmas markets are quintessentially community events. These street markets are commonly open for business as the Advent is ushered in, and close out in line with the Epiphany in early January. They are a festive and fun way to introduce yourself to an area, while sampling the local delicacies, and supporting resident artists and artisans.

 

Christmas markets are structured much the same, but creative twists on decoration, lighting, themes, foods, and even activities can make certain markets more popular. Generally you’ll find the holiday market in a central location within a town or city. Officials will reserve locations such as large piazzas where locals and tourists alike come to socialize and open space is at a plenty. Streets are lined with small wooden huts or tents where various merchants bring their best representation of local goods and fare.

chestnutsMarket organizers will play to the senses with spectacular light shows, festive Christmas music, and the aroma of food and drink wafting through the air. If you’re lucky, there’s a merchant with a full cart of freshly roasted chestnuts and another with a hot cup of vin brulé, or mulled wine. Incorporating grand carousels and towering Christmas trees in the center of it all, organizing workshops and family games, all aimed at enhancing the social experience for every visitor.

Whether you’re looking for the best in shopping, or a food lovers paradise, or simply a fantastic evening for the entire family to enjoy, one of the many Christmas markets of Italy has what you need.

If it’s the food that’s driving your interest, the Bolzano market in South Tyrol is a good start. It’s one of the largest markets in Italy and mirrors the German markets with foods like apple strudel and hot biscuits. The medieval setting makes it truly a unique experience. In Florence, they too host a German influenced market filled with bratwurst and more, but also incorporate the Italian market for a cultural balance.

When you need to get the Christmas shopping done and are looking for something unique, markets like the Marché Vert Noël in Aosta fit the bill. One of the most popular markets in Northern Italy, this small town converts into an Alpine village and hosts more than 40 chalets filled with handmade gifts, food, wine, and more.

Venice also has a quaint market with the perfect opportunity to purchase hand-blown glass and lace from the nearby Murano and Burano Islands. Or you can score a few of the beautiful carnival masks for a truly unique gift.

Other popular markets are in Trento with more than 70 traditional huts selling merchandise, and in Turin where crafts and gourmet products are presented from 14 Italian regions and 8 foreign countries. Genoa hosts more than 100 artisans from all over Italy, and Naples is famous for their handcrafted precepi, or nativity scenes.

If you’re looking for a memorable family experience, numerous Christmas markets attract visitors far and wide because of their unique decorations and family activities.

In Le Marché, they are known as the medieval candle market. They periodically shut off all of their lamps all over town and then ignite only candles instead, a bewitching and captivating sight.

The Mountain Christmas in idyllic Selva in Val Gardena installs an old fashioned cable car of miniature wooden cabins that can be found hanging high above their magical Christmas village each year. Grab a cup of mulled wine and enjoy the direct connection to the legendary ski tour Sellaronda, with its 500 kilometers of perfectly prepared slopes. 

Vin BrulePlaces like Rome host several markets, but the most famous in the Piazza Navona takes on a different theme for their market each year. You’ll see spectacular lights, enjoy live music, and marvel at the street performers and acrobats. The entire market bustles with tourists, vendor stalls, a carousel, and festive balloons.

Merano’s market goes all out. The kids will never get bored with activities like pony rides, parades, ice skating, and carriage rides. And in Pisa, their market is solely designed for the kids in mind with the Father Christmas Factory, or Fabbrica di Babbo Natale. 

Across Italy, the Christmas markets host thousands and present a truly magical experience like no other. Enchanting small towns and bustling big cities alike, these special markets are an enriching way to experience the greatest Italy has to offer.

While we hope all of our followers will some day be able to experience a Christmas market in Italy for themselves, we also hope each of you will take advantage of the markets in your own local communities by attending one today. The fairytale settings will captivate and delight, awakening the Christmas spirit in us all – young and old.

Boun Natale!

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Christmas in Italy: Creating joyful traditions with the kids in your life

Julie Jurden

It’s finally December and the spirit of the holiday season is getting in to full swing here in the U.S. For most of us, Thanksgiving officially kicks off the festivities, and for some, it even begins as early as Halloween. But no matter when your family traditionally welcomes the season, it’s a magical and wondrous time for the little ones in our lives. 

Ask anyone you know and they’ll probably be able to spout out one tradition that their family has had or continues during the holiday season. While the origins of this special time are based on religious and spiritual beliefs, many traditions celebrated are born from families creating memories in their own way and then sustained for years to come. It’s something that brings us together in familiarity and comfort.

Italians also understand this and base many of their traditions on bringing family together and creating a meaningful experience their children will remember and share for the rest of their lives. They also celebrate within their own cultural timeline.

Italians may begin their winter holiday a little later than us, but they also extend the celebration well into January, creating massive excitement and extended anticipation for kids across the country.

The season typically begins on December 8 with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception. This is a national holiday with significant importance to the Roman Catholic Church, and also the official day when most put up their holiday decorations and Christmas trees. It’s a spectacle to behold with sights, sounds, and smells to heighten the senses of holiday revelers young and old.

In the Novena, or eight days before Christmas, streets are filled with carolers singing traditional songs. In Rome and other locations, you will see the zampognari or bagpipe players who travel from the nearby Abruzzi Mountains to play throughout the streets for the local children. At the same time, piazzas across Italy are enveloped with beautiful lights and decorations, including artisanal handmade presepi, or nativity scenes. You’d be hard pressed not to find one in any city or town.

Other Italian traditions include skipping meat on Christmas Eve as a way to purify their bodies for Christmas Day, often replaced with grand feasts and multiple courses of beautiful seafood instead. While many end the day with Midnight Mass, there are also those brave ones who ski down the Dolomites at the strike of midnight carrying torches to welcome Christmas – an incredible sight to behold.

Christmas Day of course is filled with large meals, loads of family and friends, and glorious Italian foods, including the traditional dessert of panettone, a sweet bread loaf filled with candied fruit and raisins that children love.

The feasting and celebration continues into the New Year, but comes to a crescendo January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas and the Day of the Epiphany. 

The night before, large meals are once again shared with family and friends to mark the end of the season, and La Befana, a witch who flies on her broom and brings good children treats and bad children coal, delivers her gifts and goodies. 

We delight in and appreciate all of the holiday traditions of Italy and hope that all of our followers are able to continue their own family traditions, or start some new ones. Focusing ideas and activities around the children in our lives is a great place to start, and often means these traditions are carried forward for generations to come.

We’d like to help by offering tips and ideas for the table – more specifically, the children’s table.

Rather than setting up a small card table or relegating the little ones to a counter with stools, make their meal memorable by creating something colorful and unique to mark the occasion. Kids notice these things and love when they are singled out with something special just for them. And if you turn it into a tradition, they have something to look forward to each year.

 

Our children’s table shown here uses our bright and cheerful POP collection. Use these pieces as a backdrop for anything you’d want to add to make it even more festive for the kids. Involving them as much as possible in the party and the preparation makes it special for everyone!

Consider a few of these ideas to get your creativity flowing and to start some new family traditions.

  • Let kids create an ornament or other fun craft to designate their spot at the table.
  • Make a gingerbread house centerpiece and plan to decorate it together earlier in the day.
  • Ask each child to bring a dozen of their favorite decorated Christmas cookies for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Provide a special holiday dish just for them to have at their table. Maybe a frozen cranberry reindeer or Christmas tree crudité.
  • Provide an age appropriate table game like holiday trivia questions with a prize for the most correct answers, Christmas bingo, I Spy, or place a number under a plate later to be drawn for a prize. You could even fill a large clear vessel with candy and each child guesses the amount inside. When the meal is over they can count the contents and closest to the number wins a prize.
  • Lay out crayons or markers and a butcher paper tablecloth for creative drawings or thoughtful messages throughout the meal.
  • Place several disposable or digital cameras at the table and let the kids get creative with special shots from their point of view. Share the images in the coming days so everyone has something to look forward to.
  • Place pens and paper on the table and have each child write a few sentences that later get compiled into one story. Share the story with the family after dinner. Have them get creative and as silly as they like, these can be the best stories.
  • Share with us your favorites. What does your family do for the holidays? Do they plan something special just for the kids? Let us know your favorite traditions.

No matter what you have planned this season, we hope you all are lucky enough to spend just a small bit of time seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child and creating new traditions and memories for years to come. The pure joy, laughter, and whimsy children evoke is the most simple yet poignant way we can think to embrace and celebrate the season. 

Buon Natale!

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Winter Entertaining Series | Picture Imperfect

Julie Jurden

We hope you have enjoyed our fall and winter entertaining series. We know it’s a busy time for everyone and making it easier to entertain and spend time with friends and family is our goal.

italy at christmas time

 

Keeping it simple with quality, seasonal foods and floral elements layered with inviting and complementary dinnerware selections is our secret to success. 

As we head into this hectic time, I would like to share a segment from one of my favorite inspirational speakers, John O’Leary, speaking about what he learned during an attempt to get a multigenerational family photo:

“Love is a Verb.” As one parent ran to get a favorite toy for an upset child, another helped with a crying baby. As one cleaned up spit up, another brushed the hair of a child whose roughhousing disheveled it.

In love, there is no passivity, no sitting back, no waiting for others to jump in. Real love demands action. Love is the great motivator and compels continual forgiveness, persistent compassion and striving toward something even bigger than itself.

(“Love is a verb” is one of my favorite quotes from my recent Live Inspired podcast interview with Edie Varley. Edie shares her beautiful story of growing up one of 14 children – “life was a celebration!” She’s my personal coach, dear friend and you won’t want to miss her wisdom and energy)

2. Life requires adaptability. As more little ones came around their grandparents, everyone had to shuffle to make room and make sure everyone could be seen.

Most of us are creatures of habit and like things as they were. “The good ole days” isn’t just the beginning of a story our grandparents shared, but one now repeated by most of us! It’s critical to remember and celebrate that life is constantly in flux, otherwise we’re at risk to be driven toward protectionism and longing for a past that will never exist again.

3. Perfection is unattainable. The majority of Facebook posts and holiday cards are Photo-shopped or at least only THE BEST photo of hundreds taken before it. It also turns out when someone responds that everything is ‘just perfect’ in their work, finances, family and life: They likely aren’t telling the entire story.

  • Life isn’t perfect. It can be messy, sad, unfair and undignified. And yet, seasons of adversity are often followed by joy, with overlap between the two. Instead of pretending all is perfect, be okay with the mess life can occasionally be; instead of being disappointed at what you did not perfectly capture, be grateful for all that you did.

    For you see, in looking back, the best pictures, experiences and memories often aren’t the ones we envisioned, but the unexpected ones we were lucky enough to experience. 
  •  

    From all of us at Modigliani, we wish you and your family a joyful holiday season, and we look forward to sharing and engaging more with you in the New Year.

     

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    Fall Entertaining Series | Place Settings

    Julie Jurden

    In the second entry of our lifestyle series, we worked with a few ideas on place settings. We took the idea of incorporating nature and textures and mixed it with flatware adding some fun to the place card concept.

    We loved the idea of weaving herbs and floral into the tablescape as a whole. As you can see from the first photo, we took a single sprig of rosemary and the simple yet beautiful Michelangelo flatware and tied them together with a rich velvet ribbon, setting them on top of a crisp, off-white linen napkin.

    It’s easy and elegant and also provides your dinner guests with a wonderful scent of rosemary.

    Place setting on wooden table with green ribbon

     As shown above and for the purposes of our photo shoot, we chose to keep the beauty of the wood table as the base instead of displaying a Biancheria ivory placemat in full. But as you build your own tablescape, the placemat provides an elegant backdrop to your favorite dinner pieces.

    As you build out the rest of your place setting, use natural elements mixed with different pieces to layer your table. As you can see below, the table setting we chose includes a dahlia and some eucalyptus in a small glass votive. We then used the napkins from our Biancheria Green collection and layered them in a gentle roll mimicking the curved stems on our Villa d’Este amber glassware.

    leaf plate with pumpkin and amber colored glassware

    Again, the focus is on elegant yet simple beauty through the mixing and layering of natural textures and patterns.

    Next - Appetizer Serving Displays

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    Those Angels Among Us | Rett Angels

    Julie Jurden

    As October arrives, most of us begin thinking about the fast approaching holidays. It’s the time of year when we look forward to sharing our precious time with family and friends, and enjoying the traditions and festivities of the season.

    Additionally, it’s a time of year where many of us want to extend our generosity beyond traditional gifts through the giving of our time and money to those causes that have special meaning to us, for whatever reasons.

    For us, October carries a great importance because it’s Rett syndrome awareness month.

    What’s the significance to us? Because, it was just 18 years ago when our family first met a wonderful young lady named Bea. Ever since that introduction, she’s been a blessing in our lives along with her parents, grandparents, and sister.

    If you’re not familiar with Rett syndrome, it’s a rare non-inherited genetic postnatal neurological disorder that occurs almost exclusively in girls and begins to show its effects in infancy or early childhood. It can often be misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy, because it causes problems in brain function that are responsible for cognitive, sensory, emotional, motor, and autonomic function. These can then impact learning, speech, sensory sensations, mood, movement, breathing, cardiac function, and even chewing, swallowing, and digestion.

    As one can imagine, Rett syndrome can present numerous challenges to those living with the disease, as well as those caring for them. But with therapy, assistance, and endless amounts of unconditional love, every single one of them can benefit greatly by participating in typical life activities like school, social, educational, and recreational programs. Even our Bea was able to attend her first prom like any other young girl her age.

    Years ago we made the decision to do something to not only help raise awareness about Rett syndrome, but to raise funds for the incredible research underway.

    Hence the Angel Plate was born.

    In 2014, we started by producing one each year with the idea to create a set of four that could be displayed together on a wall or shelf, or used during special occasions. We explained the significance to our artists and partners in Italy, and they have been honored to design and produce Piastra Angelo with great care. 

    2017 marks the final year for the Angel Plate Collection. These plates are a one-of-a-kind gift, limited in number and signed by the artist. 100% of the profits go to Rett syndrome research. You can order the new 2017 plate, or you can collect all four as we still have a few from the previous years available. 

    While we know our contribution is a very small one, we like to think that we’ve been a part of helping further research, and ultimately finding a cure for Rett syndrome.

    The amazing news is that researchers have been making wonderful strides over the past several years. Their research strategy has yielded unprecedented results, including that researchers now know what causes Rett and have proven it’s reversible. For the first time, they potentially have a treatment, Trofinetide, which could profoundly impact the disorder. Trofinetide increases the amount of connections in the brain that control thought and movement. Trials have shown improvements after less than two months, and because of the way it works, they could expect to see continued improvements over a longer period of time. Trofinetide potentially offers measurable change to every person living with Rett syndrome.

    It’s for research such as this that we continue to bring attention to Rett and look for ways to raise funds for more critical research of this nature.

    If you’d like to learn more, visit www.rettsyndrome.org for ways you can support this important cause.

    We are incredibly grateful to all of you for your continued support. Thank you on behalf of all of us, and most importantly, our lovely Bea and her family.

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    Enjoy a Valentine's Date at Home

    Julie Jurden
    It’s that time of year again, when love is in the air! While many people are making reservations at that swanky restaurant and planning their celebration out on the town for Valentine’s Day, why not plan a dinner date night in? Here are suggestions to make it an extra special occasion.

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    Ring in the New Year with Italian Flair

    Julie Jurden

    It's almost time to celebrate! New Year's Eve is right around the corner, so now is the time to plan the festivities. For those looking who love Italian culture, or anyone wanting to add some new traditions, look no further.  

    POP Gold

    Party in Style

     

    If you're having friends and family over for your New Year's Eve party, set a gorgeous table. Our POP Gold Collection offers cheerful gold tones reminiscent of a bubbly glass of champagne. Pair items from this collection with our Vetro Oro Small Glass Plate and our Villa d'Este Amber Champagne Flute for a perfect table setting. 

    Enjoy a Game

    Gather your guests for a game of Tombola! Similar to bingo this game was created in Naples in the 1700s as an alternative to gambling. King Charles banned gambling during the Christmas period only. Neopolitans found a way to get around the new law by playing Tombola during the holidays.

    Eat for Prosperity

    Lentils, sausage, and grapes anyone? Lentils are a food symbolizing wealth. Combine them with sausage which is thought to bring good fortune and you are starting the year off right! Finish your meal with grapes as they insure you'll be frugal with your new found wealth. 

    However you are ringing in the new year, enjoy your time with friends and family. From all of us at Modigliani, we wish you are yours a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. 

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    Showing Gratitude

    Julie Jurden
    "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." William Arthur Ward

    While we often mention that the holiday season is our favorite time of the year, we love to carry the sentiment in our hearts all year round. That means, for us, showing our gratitude each and everyday. So as you sit with your family and friends gathered around the table this Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah, we encourage you to carry that feeling in your hearts the whole year. Approach each day with a sense of gratitude and express to others how much they mean to you. We have compiled a list of a few wonderful ways to express thanks and are excited to share them with you. We also invite you to leave a comment here, on Facebook or Twitter letting us know how you carry gratitude with you throughout the year.

    • Pack a note in the lunch of your child or spouse
    • Offer a genuine compliment to a co-worker
    • Put a sticky note somewhere random that will make a stranger smile
    • Mail a handwritten thank you note to someone who inspires you
    • Smile at everyone you see
    • Pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you
    • Give a larger tip than usual with a service industry worker and include a note of thanks for what they do
    • Volunteer your time
    • Acknowledge someone publicly for their contributions
    • Send flowers or a small gift to thank someone for their time
    • Verbally give thanks often

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    October is Rett Syndrome Awareness Month

    Julie Jurden
    2016 Angel Plate
    October is Rett Syndrome awareness month. Each year we call attention this rare disease. 

    One of our greatest blessings is to have grown up with a family that faces the daily challenges and incredible joy of raising a daughter with Rett Syndrome. For those that may not be familiar with this condition, Rett Syndrome is a neurological disorder that is first recognized in infancy and seen almost always in girls. It causes problems in brain function that are responsible for cognitive, sensory, emotional, motor and autonomic function. These can include learning, speech, sensory sensations, mood, movement, breathing, cardiac function, and even chewing, swallowing, and digestion.

    Rett syndrome presents many challenges, but with love, therapy and assistance, those with the syndrome can benefit from school and community activities well into middle age and beyond. They experience a full range of emotions and show their engaging personalities as they take part in social, educational, and recreational activities at home and in the community.  

    In order to do our small part to help find a cure for Rett Syndrome, we have a special A​ngel P​late created each year. Proceeds from this limited edition signed plate go to help find a cure for this disease that effects so many and is within grasp. Financially, we hope our small contribution will help further the cause but more importantly, we hope our Angel Plate creates an awareness and promotes support for Rett Syndrome girls and their families. 

    We invite you to join us in finding a cure for Rett Syndrome. You can view the 2016  Angel Plate design here. We have only 50 created each year, making this a very special gift for someone you love.
    If you are interested in purchasing the entire collection of Angel Plates, we have a limited number of previous year's plates.

    To donate directly to IRSF, click here

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