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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 03/29/15

Sunday, March 29, 2015

THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE, FROM ITALY!!

  The Carnival of Venice historically had a reputation for attracting Europe's aristocracy, but it was also a time when the poorer of society could dress up and mingle with the upper classes.  Venice still has a reputation for being a very expensive city though, if you're on a budget don't let this put you off on visiting the Carnival of Venice as you can actually visit Venice on a shoestring budget.
   The Carnival of Venice starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.











Venetian Carnival Masks

   Masks have always been a central feature of the carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefan (St. Stephen's Day, December 26th) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday.  They have always been around Venice.  As masks were also allowed for Ascension and from October 5th to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise.  Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.











   Venetian masks can be made in leather or with the original glass technique.  The original masks were rather simple in design and decoration and often had a symbolic and practical function.  Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.

Bauta

   Bauta is the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding.  One may find masks sold as Bautas that cover only the upper part of the face from the forehead to the nose and upper cheeks, thereby concealing identity but enabling the wearer to talk and eat or drink easily.  It tends to be the main type of mask worn during the Carnival.  It was used also on many other occasions as a device for hiding the wearer's identity and social status.  It would permit the wearer to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention.  It was thus useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters.










   In the 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government.  It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers.  Only citizens of Venice had the right to use the Bauta.  Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies.
   It was not allowed for the wearer to carry  weapons along with the mask, and police had the right to enforce this ruling.

Moretta

   The moretta is an oval mask of black velvet that was usually worn by women visiting convents.  It was invented in France and rapidly became popular in Venice as it brought out the beauty of feminine features.  The mask was finished off with a veil, and was secured in place by a small bit in the wearer's mouth.












Volto or Larva

The "Volto" was the more common mask used in Venice for centuries.  Volto, means "face", a design that is was the most common, simplest mask.











Mask Makers

The mascherari, or mask makers had their own statute date 10 April 1436.  They belonged to the fringe of painters and were helped in their task by sign painters who drew faces onto plaster in a range of different shapes and paying extreme attention to detail.

DARK CHOCOLATE CANDY BARK!

Dark Chocolate Candy Bark



   Chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, malted milk balls, or your favorite candy bar can be the star of this easy Christmas candy-bark recipe. If you're not big on dark chocolate, use white chocolate instead.





Dark Chocolate Candy Bark



ingredients
  • 6
    ounces chocolate-flavor candy coating, chopped (1 cup)
  • 6
    ounces dark chocolate, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1
    tablespoon shortening
  • 2
    cups chopped assorted chocolate candy bars, such as chocolate-coated caramel-topped nougat bars with peanuts, chocolate-covered English toffee, chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, or malted milk balls
  • 1/2
    cup salted peanuts, chopped
directions
1.Line a large baking sheet with heavy foil; grease foil. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl combine candy coating, chocolate, and shortening. Microwave, uncovered, on 100 percent power (high) for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until chocolate melts, stirring every 30 seconds.
2.Stir 1 cup of the assorted chopped candy bars and the peanuts into melted chocolate mixture. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Spread mixture into an even layer about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup chopped candy bars; lightly press pieces into chocolate.
3.Chill about 30 minutes or until firm. Use foil to lift candy out of pan. Using a sharp knife, cut candy into pieces.

To Store:
  • Layer pieces of candy bark between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
White Chocolate Candy Bark:
  • Prepare as directed, except substitute vanilla-flavor candy coating for the chocolate-flavor candy coating; chopped white baking chocolate for the dark chocolate; and chopped, toasted slivered almonds for the salted peanuts.

STARBUCKS PEPPERMINT MOCHA KNOCKOFF WITH SOME HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE SYRUP!





   This recipe comes from www.madincrafts.com .  This is for all of you that miss those chocolate mochas from Starbuck's, after the holidays are over.  Enjoy!


Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Knockoff (with Homemade Chocolate Mint Syrup)



starbucks peppermint mocha recipe square








Do you remember how I told you I was going to share a yummy way to use up my herb garden mint? Time to make good on that promise.




chocolate mint




If you have ever grown mint, you know that it is an “aggressive grower” A.K.A. even Jess can’t kill it. Despite my brown thumb, my chocolate mint plant has been producing like crazy, so I needed to find a good way to put it to use.
What better way than to make some yummy chocolate-chocolate mint syrup?




chocolate mint leaves




For the recipe, you will need about 30 mint leaves. I didn’t actually count mine out, but I am pretty sure I had a good 3 dozen. Rinse them and pat them dry with a paper towel.




torn mint leaves




Next, rip the leaves into small pieces. Rip, don’t cut. You want to bruise and beat up the leaves as you go. This makes the mint release more of its oily goodness.
Oily goodness isn’t a term I use often.




swampy deliciousness




In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of white sugar, 3/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (I used my beloved Special Dark)and the torn mint leaves. I know that this picture resembles Shrek’s swamp, but it smells way better than ogre farts.




chocolate mint syrup recipe





Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sugar is all dissolved. Let the syrup cool.





strain out the mint leaves




Strain the syrup into a jar or plastic container. I used to have a nice mesh strainer, but I gave it to my 3 year old to play with and now it’s rusting in the backyard somewhere. So, I improvised by stabbing some small holes in the bottom of plastic baby food container. Whatever works, right?
The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, so drizzle it on ice cream, make chocolate-mint milk, or treat yourself to one of my favorite coffee drinks.




starbucks peppermint mocha knockoff recipe





I love Starbucks Peppermint Mochas, but not only are they expensive, Starbucks only carries them around the holidays. You can use your homemade chocolate mint syrup to make your own at home!
The homemade syrup provides the “coat your mouth chocolatiness” of the Starbucks version because it is made with cocoa powder. Regular Hershey’s syrup will work, but not as well. And it won’t be all minty fresh.
To be really decadent, you can top the coffee with whipped cream and sprinkles. If you know you are going to have one of THOSE days (like for instance you are putting your obstinately un-potty trained 3-year-old in underwear for the whole day for the first time), go ahead and use ice cream instead of the whipped cream.
I won’t tell.



Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Knock-Off
3 T. chocolate-mint syrup
1/3 c. warm milk (or steamed, if you’re fancy)
6 oz. strong coffee
whipped cream and sprinkles (optional)
Mix together syrup and milk. Pour in coffee. Top with whipped cream and sprinkles.

MARDI GRAS FROM NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA!!!







     The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced back  to Medieval Europe, though we have no written record of how that really transformed into the current Mardi Gras of today.  But the origins of the Mardi Gras we celebrate today....with Kings, Mardi Gras colors, and brass bands....are traced to New Orleans.
   Although we can trace its history to the Romans, a French-Canadian expolorer, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, landed on a plot of ground 60 miles directly south of New Orleans in 1699 and called it "Pointe due Mardi Gras".  He also established "Fort Louis de la Louisiane" (which is now Mobile) in 1702.  In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated the very first Mardi Gras.










   In 1704, Mobile established a secret society (Masque de la Mobile)....similar to those who form our current Mardi Gras Krewes.  It lasted until 1709.  In 1710, the "Boef Graf Society" was formed and paraded from 1711 through 1861.  The procession was held with a huge bull's head pushed along on wheels by 16 men.  This occurred on Fat Tuesday.
   New Orleans was established in 1718 by Jean-Baptise Le Moyne.  By the 1730's, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans...but not in parade form.  In the early 1740's, Louisiana's Governor The Marquis de Vaudreuil, established elegant society balls...the model for the New Orleans Mardi Gras balls of today.










   The earliest reference to Mardi Gras "Carnival" appears in a 1781 report to the Spanish colonial governing body.  That year, the Perseverance Benevolent & Mutual Aid Associaiton is the first of hundreds of clubs and carnival organizations formed in New Orleans.
   By the late 1830's, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras.  newspapers began to announce Mardi Gras events in advance.
   In 1871, Mardi Gras's second "Krewe" is formed, the Twelfth Night Reveler's, with the first account of Mardi Gras "throws".










   1872, was the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival-Rex-to parade in the first daytime parade.  They introduced the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold, the Mardi Gras song, and the Mardi Gras flag.
   In 1873, the first floats were constructed entirely in New Orleans instead of France.  In 1875, Governor Warmoth of Louisiana signs the "Mardi Gras Act" making it a legal holiday in Louisiana, which it still is.
   Most Mardi Gras Krewes today developed from private social clubs that have restrictive membership policies.  Since all of these parade organizations are completely funded by its members, we call it the "Greatest Free Show on Earth"!










History Behind the King Cake

   As part of Christian faith, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas.  We refer to this as the Feast of Epiphany or Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night.  This is a time of celebration, exchanging gifts and feasting.  Today, the tradition continues as people all over the world gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations.  A popular custom was and still is the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kinds called "A King's Cake".
    Inside every cake is a tiny baby (generally plastic now, but sometimes this baby might be made of porcelain or even gold).  The tradition of having King Cake Parties has evolved through time, and the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.