Day two in Tuscany

This is a page from my personal journal dated…..June 7th, 2010

This morning I set my alarm for 7:30 am and was stirring to the sound of beautiful birds singing  loudly just  as the sun was about to rise over the mountains.  I am in Tuscany…..and I need to rise and get ready for the day.  Kelly and I had planned to take a hike.  It. felt cold as I stepped out of my comfortable bed.  I looked forward to a warm shower, even though I knew I would be warmed when we walked.  I showered and met Kelly at the cucina for a light breakfast of papaya yogurt, granola and a piece of toasted grain bread…..delicious, slices of fresh tomato and  swiss cheese.  Kelly had been sitting at the computer sharing  news with the family. Laura’s assistants had started a fire in the outdoor wood burning oven which would later bake our focaccia bread, but was a warm welcome with it’s spitting embers and smokey fragrance to  greet us as we sipped out hot tea.

After eating with the group we took to the trail for a morning hike.  Just a few minutes into the hike we were huffing and puffing.  The altitude was effecting us and it seemed we were totally out of shape.  The incline didn’t t seem to be that great, yet we were struggling to make it to the top of the trail, the road we had driven into Casa Ombuto from the main road from Poppi.  We were determined to complete a walk and continued on.  The view from the road just beyond the entrance was breathtaking.  The wild flowers, including bright red poppies were spectacular and encouraged us to continue on.  We took several pictures of the panoramic view even though we knew we could never capture the magnificence of it all.  We reached a summit and agreed we must attempt one more incline and then we would turn around and travel the trail downward returning to Casa Ombuto, the easy part of the hike.  We were able to complete our walk and were happy to climb the stairs from the main road to the pool area where Kelly showed me the hot tub, a large wooden tub with a fire burning stove for heating.  She suggested we inform them 24 hours before we wanted to use the tub so they could heat it. We freshened up after our walk and made our way to the cucina for cooking class.  It would be a long day with two classes, French and Moroccan cuisine.  We were excited to learn some new recipes.

Chef Laura explaining to Kelly how to prepare the Salad Nicoise

In the morning we dove into French cuisine. The four retired travelers made a plum soufflé that came out of the oven so beautiful and tasty.  As we cooked we learned that Jim, a retired attorney, had written a fictional book entitled “The Baja Experience” that I am curious to read. Kelly and I worked on the salad noicise which is colorful and fresh with it’s many simple vegetables, boiled eggs and light dressing of garlic, basil and olive oil. We also made three Tapenade, one of baked eggplant, one walnuts and onions ,and the last of olives and anchovies. Then we  prepared individual focaccia breads that were baked in the outdoor oven that Laura later told us was over 300 years old.  We knew the buildings were old, but 300years?  During lunch in the garden, under a beautiful canopied wrought iron pergola, we drank a light Tuscan Rosato wine and dipped our focaccia and vegetable sticks into the Tapenades, and ate our fresh salad. So perfect.  I excused ,myself for a one hour nap between classes.  I think the time change is getting the best of me today.

After  our break we donned our aprons and gladly accepted the task of deboning the leg of lamb for the main course Morroccan lamb stew.  Tom and Eleanor formed beautiful almond macaroons while Lindsay and Cassie worked on little parcels of phyloh dough stuffed with cooked eggplant, onion and Morrocan spices.  Tom also prepared the carrots which were cut into sticks and cooked on the stove in several delicious spices.

After preparing the recipes we snacked pizza Laura had prepared for us of canned crushed tomatoes, olive oil and fresh oregano.  She shared with us that she was sad because she had lost her dog on Friday, a boxer she had had for 10 years  He had been sick and died at home.  Since her separation and divorce 8 years ago her dogs and son had been her only companions. She had lost both dogs within a short time. We were all very sad to see her upset and I shared that I too had lost a dog, Bunker recently.  Anyway, we had an hour or so before dinner so we sipped our wine and laughed with Cassie and Lindsay, the crazy sisters as they straddled the wall overlooking the  gorgeous Tuscan countryside.

The dinner table tonight was once again beautiful with a colorful Morroccan colored tablecloth and small enameled bowls to serve our vegetables.  The lamb was served surrounding couscous and made a beautiful presentation.  Although I have never liked lamb in the past, I must admit it was tasty. The almond macaroons and mint tea were the perfect light dessert. Barbara, the manager of Casa Ombuto, had joined us for dinner and when the shot glasses and bottles once again appeared, we cranked up the music and everyone danced.  Laura smiled as she looked on.  Even little Elizabeth from Austrailia danced for the first time since her husband had died nine years ago.
I called Tom before we returned to our suite to tell him about our wonderful day and to warn him we would be shopping tomorrow for table linens and ceramics in the village of Arezzo.

Had better turn in because we certainly do not want to miss the bus!  buena note.

View from the road on our morning hike.

Judi and Kelly under the garden pergola where we ate our Moroccan lunch

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