Cook in Tuscany – La Chiusa, A Surprise, Innocenti and Farewell

*** EIGHT – yes, EIGHT!!  months have gone by since I returned from Tuscany.  I had so many issues with my computer that I had put this aside to finish later and later never seemed to come.  I am now, if you don’t mind, ready to finish the telling of this fabulous life-changing (for me) trip! ***

♣♣♣TWO YEARS – yes, officially TWO YEARS have, as of today, gone by since I started my Cook in Tuscany Trip.  I am not counting my day in Zug because that would have made yesterday the official two-year mark.  Though I am not pro-resoution, I have promised myself to finish every project I have started and that includes this one.♣♣♣

Now where was I….

Sigh, the last full day in Montefollonico, at La Costa with this fabulous group that made the start of my trip so wonderful. The next morning most would be hopping the van to Chiusi-Chianciano Station to continue their adventures elsewhere or return home.  But till then, we had a full day of wonderful stuff!

As per usual, we had our breakfast in the closed-in veranda before making our way to our last cooking class.  It is kinda funny that we had the van, considering how close we were!  We could easily have walked there and back but hey, why not?  And it’s not like any of us knew where we were going anyway.

This time we made our way to the restaurant La Chiusa, run by Michelin-star chef Dania, a woman who is somewhere in her 70’s but does not dress “accordingly” (whatever that is supposed to be)!  She is one sexy lady!  Though divorced, her husband still works with her.  How very European, eh?

Dania is very artistic and she showed us how to decorate plates with zucchini and beet purées.  We made stuffed zucchini flowers, pesto risotto, chicken stew, caramel nests, fig and caramel ice cream.  The colour of the egg yolks… I have no words.  And this standard for them!

Once most of the mains were started, Dania brought us through to her gardens, which were still amazing in September.  Huge kale, leeks, rows and rows of rosemary, basil, eggplants, peppers, fig trees, zucchini with their blossoms – it was amazing to walk through, while Dania chattered away, occasionally translated by the lovely Geraldine – same who had translated on truffle-hunting day.  I think I would spend hours on this bench, dreaming of what to pick next…

Group photo!

We then went into the “pasta” kitchen where Antonietta had us making ravioli stuffed with ricotta and lovely gnocchi.

All that hard work meant we got to eat al fresco on the terrace.

To return “home”, we decided to walk this time.  It was just up a hill, less than a kilometre and let’s face it, walking was not a bad idea.  As we entered the gates of Montefollonico, we were chattering and laughing when I heard “Dale?”.

What the… I spun around and there was Pierre.  One of Mick’s close friends and former clients.  Oh. Em. Gee.  You cannot make this stuff up!  I mean, come ON!  This is not THE rocking place of Tuscany.  This tiny village is tucked away in the middle of nowhere!  I can still hear Donna saying:  “You turned French Canadian in front of my eyes!”  Speaking of eyes, the whole gang got all misty-eyed at seeing us hug.  Pierre looked at me, then up at the sky and let out a “Mick, tabarnac!”  He said he was a little bit of a believer but now was full-fledged.  I had no idea he and his wife, Geneviève, were there on vacation.  And it was his in-laws who wanted to go visit there.  What were the chances?

Pierre and Me

We exchanged emails and made arrangements to hook up in two days.  So. Very. Cool.

We had a few hours to kill before our next adventure and Sandy wanted to deliver an apron to Dania in thanks.  So I joined Donna and her for a walk back to La Chiusa and Dania.

Our last excursion was down the street from LaCosta to Innocenti Wines.

We were greeted by Vino, Vittorio Innocenti’s sweet dog.  We entered and a few feet in, found ourselves in a fairly dark and musty wine cellar with the big casks.  Vittorio and Laura (Geraldine’s mum) were waiting for us to give us a tour.  Not a very big one!  The place is quite small and feels very intimate.

It was our last night together! How quickly it passed.  How much fun we had.  The memories created will remain forever, of that I am certain.  Friendships created and with the magic of Facebook, maintained.

Our last supper was at La Costa in the closed veranda as the evening was quite cool.  We had a lovely feast of pork chops and the lemon roasted potatoes and balsamic roasted cipollini, three types of crostini (mushroom, roasted tomato and olive), salad and a birthday cake for Cindi and Alison!  A perfect ending to a perfect week in perfect company.  Linda and George gave us each a lovely ceramic plate as a memento.  We would save our good-byes for the morrow.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

 

 

Vacation in Roswell, New Mexico – Friday Fictioneers

Good Wednesday-Friday, my peeps!  You know it, it’s Friday Fictioneers time!  This week I’m doing something new.  Frank over at A Frank Angle, wanted to play indirectly by suggesting a collaboration of sorts with me.  I send him this week’s photo prompt, he then gives me the title or idea.  So voilà!  This here is the result 😉  I really did try to stay away from dialogue.  Couldn’t do it for this one. Hope y’all don’t mind!

Thank you always to Rochelle for keeping us in line – or doing her best to 😉 .  This week, she chose this photo from Ted Strutz.  Thank you, Ted, for allowing us to use and abuse it for this challenge!

Should this picture jump up at you and makes you think of something to say, then please, by all means, join our merry band of misfits and share it with us!  Click on Rochelle’s name for the rules and regs or click on the blue frog below to read more interpretations…

Add the frog to your blog by clicking here

Vacation in Roswell, New Mexico

“You have GOT to be kidding me.”  Shanna watched Charlie set up his camera and tripod in the middle of the field, using the car lights to see.

“What?  So far, we have done all the stuff you wanted to do:  Farmer and Artisan’s Market, Peco Flavors Winery, and we toured the International Air Center – ok, that was for me.  Still, can’t I just do this?

Shanna sighed.  “Yes, of course.  But c’mon, you know it was proven that it wasn’t a UFO that landed way back in ’47.”

“So they say, Shanna, so they say. Can’t hurt to look, right?”

 

Colour Me Green – What Pegman Saw

Why am I writing at 3:00 a.m.?  Because my boy has some friends over, and though I went to bed hours ago, they are still going strong.  Somehow sleep eludes me.  Weird, eh?

So, I checked my email and what do I see there?  What Pegman Saw!  Might as well be one of the early-birds!  Thank you to Karen and Josh for hosting this great writing challenge.

This week Pegman takes us to Abaco, Bahamas. You won’t find much in the way of streetview out in this neck of the Bahamas. Mainly because you won’t find much in the way of streets. You can use the photo provided, or dangle Pegman over the map to find your own slice of paradise.

Your mission is to write 150 words inspired by what you find. Will you treat us to comedy? Tragedy? Sci Fi Slipstream Historical Fiction? Your only limit is your imagination. And of course the previously mentioned 150 words. Once you’ve polished your story-poem-essay, share it with other Pegman contributors using the link up below.

Colour Me Green

So, you go away for two weeks every year?

Yeah.  It’s like a timeshare.  I’m never sure where I’m going until a month or so before I leave.

So, you’ve known since we’re together that you’re going, though.

Well yeah.  Like I said, I go every year.  Found out it was the Bahamas a little over a month ago.

I see.  And, you couldn’t tell me when things got serious between us that you would be going on vacation.   You chose to tell me two weeks before you leave.

I’m telling you now.  What’s the big deal?

Maybe I would have liked to have known about it.  To go with you.

You can’t. You’re not on my invitee list.  I’m going to ask them if I can add you for next time. Why you are so upset?

Maybe it’s just envy.  Surely can’t be any other reason to be upset.

 

Back Then – What Pegman Saw

Good Saturday, my peeps!  I have been reading Rochelle‘s Pegman stories for a while now, wondering if I should play or not.  Today I decided to play!  Of course, when I told Karen I was considering it, she encouraged me to do so.  So I did. 😉 

***

This week Pegman takes us to Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, in the central Caribbean. Feel free to use the crazy capture Karen posted, or find your own photo sphere anywhere within the country’s borders.

Your assignment is to produce 150 words (or less) inspired by this week’s location. Will it be fiction? Essay? Poetry? The only limit is your imagination. After you’ve polished your piece, you can share it with other participants at the link up:

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Word count:  150

Back Then

“Holy moly this place has changed!  Do you remember what it looked like back in 1985?  I can’t believe it was 32 years ago.  Doesn’t age us at all, does it?” she laughed.

“Yeah, it’s crazy.  Back then there were wide open spaces and what, three hotels and one under construction?”

“Something like that.  Let’s see, ours, the Dorado Naco; Villas Dorado; Jack Tar.  Holiday Inn?  Was that one there?  And I think it was the Eurotel that was under construction.”

“Oooh… so a big five on this long stretch.”

“Now look.  It’s wall-to-wall hotels and everyone is packed like sardines on the beach.  I can’t even find a lounge chair or parasol or even a spot to lie my towel down!  This blows.  Why do things have to change so much?”

“I feel your pain, Dee.  I miss the peaceful wide-open spaces.”

“And I miss my bikini-body from back then, Dan!”

A Disney Birthday – Friday Fictioneers

Good Hump Day, my fabulous readers…. or to us in this wacky group, Happy Friday Fictioneer Day!  Our wonderful Rochelle keeps on keepin’ us on and we’re all the more grateful for it. This week, she chose J. Hardy Carroll‘s picture.  Love the vintage feel of it.  If you want to add your 100-word story, please do so, by clicking on the blue frog and adding your link.  It is a lot of fun, a great exercise in cutting out the unnecessary and teaches you how to get to the point!

A  Disney Birthday

“Disney!  Woo hoo!  We are going to Disney!  For my birthday!  This is gonna be the BEST one ever!”

His excitement could not be contained.

“Did you know they give you six fast passes for the best rides for any time you want to use them?”

He was positively fit to be tied.

“And then you get special name tags and you get a free picture and I wonder if they even feed the birthday boy?”

She could not help but smile at his enthusiasm.

“Yes, Dear.  You told me, many times.  You don’t turn 46 every year now, do you?”

***

Yes, the biggest kid was the most enthusiastic!

Ask For Directions – Friday Fictioneers

I am very happy to say I am typing this from a real computer, not an iPad, at my desk, surrounded by boxes and boxes and boxes… Seriously.  How many books and bobbles do I have, already?

Instead of “doing the right thing” and emptying said boxes and placing the books I shall be keeping into the bookshelves, I find myself much happier writing my little memoir and sharing it with you, lovely readers.  A huge thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this party, coming up with fabulous stories herself (sometimes two!) each and every week.  As well, we cannot do a photo prompt without a photo, so, shout out to Kent Bonham for this week’s pic.

To participate, just click on the blue frog and you will be brought to the lineup of a bunch of fabulous writers, each one give us a different story.  Try it, you’ll like it!

©Ken Bonham

Genre:  Humourous Memoir

Word count:  Toujours 100

Ask For Directions

 

“The stupid signs for the 417 have disappeared!  Now, where do we go?”

“Hang on, lemme see…”

“Dammit!  I’m stopping to ask for directions again.”

“We have stopped three times already.  I cannot believe we get lost every single time we drive through Ottawa!  This is ridiculous!”

 

I watched Mick wipe his brow with the back of his hand.  It was minus 37ºC, the car window was open and he was sweating like a horse.

 

“You are ridiculous, you know that?  We could never participate in Amazing Race!  Every time we’d get lost, you’d freak out!”

“I know, Rog, I know.

***

Mick could not stand being lost.  I teased him mercilessly about it.  Once, I went on a “by-myself-weekend”.  When I came back, I told him:  “Know what I did while I was out in the Townships?  I took a road that I had no clue where I would end up!”   Needless to say, he responded with a “hardy-har-har…”

#WeekendCoffeeShare – Sugar Shack, Taxes

Welcome dear friends, to another epsisode of Weekend Coffee Share or If we were having coffee… hosted by the lovely Emily over at Nerd in the Brain.  To join in on the fun, just click on the box above which will bring you to her site and the linkup!

If we were having coffee, cappuccino, lattè, tea or whatever your heart desires (we are quite accommodating over here at Casa Rogerson/MacIsaac) I would say, please do come in, make yourself comfortable and let’s get our chat on!

I would tell you my week started with a nice visit from Tonia who managed to get a weekend away from basic training (she started week 1o this week!)  Kudos to this woman who joined the military at age 50 and is whupping a lot of 20-somethings’ butts!!  Thank goodness for Facebook and me seeing her post Saturday night that she was waiting for one of her friends at the Starbucks – a whole two minutes from my house!  I, of course, messaged her and made arrangements to pick her up the next morning.  It was wonderful hearing about all her exploits of running with a bazillion pounds on her back and being considered one of the Bad Asses of Training!

I would tell you that following my coffee with Tonia, my friend Martin picked me up so we could join a bunch of his friends to partake in a fabulous Quebec tradition called the Sugar Shack or rather, Cabane à sucre, en français.  Yes, I know they do something sorta similar in Vermont and such but over here, it is a feast.  Not for the lettuce crowd is all I can say…   Over here, you get to sample the down-to-earth true Québécois fare.  Stick-to-your-gut eats made for the working man (and woman, of course!)  This is a traditional spring-time affair.  It’s time to celebrate when the sap from our sugar maples is flowing and maple syrup becomes the nectar of the gods (at least to us!)

The feast is basically the same, no matter which Shack you go to.  It is a very traditional meal.  Of course there are places like Le Pied de Cochon that are out-of-this-world-crazy and zero anything to do with tradition.  The waiting list is ridiculous to get in, and yes, one day I will try it!  But even there, the seating is always the same.  Long tables that you share with other groups or families.  Rustic decor – if there are no wooden seats, bare beams, wood walls… hightail it outta there!  It’s not authentic!  You do not want some place that is all shiny and white and pristine.  Oh, and expect mud.  Lots of mud outside.  These place are always set deep in the woods to be close to their trees and definitely do not include asphalt.

That said, there is nothing like having the standards.  We went to the Érablière Charbonneu, listed in the top five.   Do click on the link.  I stupidly didn’t take any pictures of the food.  D’oh!

They all start off with pickled beets and pickles (either sweet or salty) and coleslaw, cretons (a fatty, delicious pork spread) with hot bread, followed by delicious pea soup.  Then comes the smorgasbord of stuff:  fluffy plain omelette, ham (regular and/or smoked), sausages cooked in maple syrup, bacon, “oreilles de crisse” (deep-fried pork jowels), bacon, baked beans, meat pie, ragoût de boulettes (pork meatballs in brown gravy), roasted potatoes.  And all served with the Cabane’s own maple syrup – poured liberally over whatever one likes.  All very, ahem, “light” and “low-calorie” fare. NOT!  This is obviously a once-per-year treat… or in my case, it had been over ten years since my last visit.

Now, that said, the BEST part – the reason Sugar Shacks came into existence, in the first place, was to boil down the sugar water until it becomes syrup.  Boil it down further and it becomes super thick… pour it onto snow and it hardens and becomes taffy.  Oh man… slurp!  Most Cabanes will have their taffy station set up outside with a roof to protect the pourers from the elements.  In this case, the taffy was in a separate little shack complete with fireplace.  Lucky for the employees!  I took a photo of my stick but didn’t realise it was totally out of focus… Must be a result of the overeating that you always promise yourself you will NOT do but cannot help yourself…

Monday’s coffee with Andrea turned into breakfast as neither one of us had eaten.  That was a nice treat!  We have determined that we are due for a girls’ get outta town something like a spa or a visit to Quebec City just for the day or whatever.  That will definitely be something we’ll be planning.

Tuesday I had to go visit the accountant.  Thank goodness for Raffi, my accountant.  For years I used to do my own taxes.  Then Mick started his company and things got too complicated for moi.  So, thanks to Armen (Mick’s business partner), he was introduced to Raffi.  And since he was doing Mick’s taxes, it was nothing to add mine.  Now the company is finally closed though there are still a few issues to iron out.   It is so long and complicated to close a company after death and I’m still getting invoices to pay taxes and stuff for Mick.  More than two years later!  Hopefully this is the last year to deal with this…

Wednesday and Thursday I worked at the golf club.  The banquets themselves went really well but I swear, I feel like a part-time mover sometimes!  We had to reorganise the room on Wednesday evening for Thursday’s event and then on Thursday, after the event, we had to move all the tables and chairs to line against the walls in the restaurant and all onto the dance floor in the banquet room.  Somehow I found the energy to make not one but two chicken thigh meals – oops… forgot to take pictures to torment you with 😉  Needless to say, I deserved a nice, hot bath by Wednesday evening…  A massage would have been nice but, alas…

Yesterday I managed to do all my laundry and vacuum the upper floor… the rest of the day, I must admit I pretty much faffed:  read Friday Fictioneer submissions and comments to my own story, chatted on-line with friends, watched some boob tube… and then… oy!  Besides, it was eldest’s 19th birthday party and he was expecting friends.  Why the hell should I bother cleaning the floor BEFORE they come in?  I escaped the house and caught the 10:10 viewing of Beauty and the Beast.  Needless to say, I have a variety of tunes totally stuck in my head since…   I figured if I caught the later showing, the party would have moved on to another venue by the time I got home.

Wrong.

It was in full swing at 12:30 a.m. And.  I came home to THIS.

Needless to say, I am not pleased.  I admit I may have snarled at him, grabbed myself a beer and gone up to my room, slamming the door (yes, I know, totally childish, but I figured it was better than taking a swing at him… 😉 ) to watch an episode of something on Netflix on my iPad…

After the quiet returned to my house, I’d say about 2:45 am or so, I also turned off my light and was asleep by 3-ish.  Up and at ’em today as I had an appointment to have my hair dyed and cut.  This short hair business is more work than when it’s long!!  Not bothering to share a photo.  First because, it’s basically the same thing, maybe a tad shorter than last time and second, because the picture I took, looks like shite!

I shan’t be playing with you next week as I shall be toasting my buns in the sun in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!  I’ll tell all a ya’all about it the following week!  Now, they said my passport would be delivered by Monday…. I am leaving on Wednesday….

Omigosh!  I have just realised it is April 1st!  Somehow I have to find a way to write as I’m participating in Camp Na No!  Oh Lordy…

I think I’ve kept you more than long enough, eh?  Time to turn the keyboard over to you!  Do tell me, how have you been?

Have a marvellous week and we’ll see ya soon!

Lotsa love,

Dale

xo