Monday, November 19, 2007

Birthday gifts: Real and virtual

I wanted to share with all of you, the most special presents I've gotten so far for my birthday. This year has proved to be a very special year in the gift getting department. No, it's not leather lingerie, I mean, "Get serious!" But first, a couple of virtual presents I got today from fellow bloggers. Thanks Sandee and Misty Dawn who posted this yummy looking cake and these lovely flowers on there blogs for me. Much appreciated!

Back in reality, this year I was given a gift that will last a lifetime. The wonderful memories and experiences will be in my heart always. When I was on my trip to Florence, Italy, my friends surprised me with a combined early birthday and Christmas gift! I had wanted to take some sort of a mozzarella making or cooking class while I was in Tuscany but didn't have much luck researching the various classes. I gave up looking but my friend did not!

As an early surprise (and boy was it!) I was treated to an Italian Immersion class! I met up with a small group of four women. A mom and 3 daughters there as a gift from the daughters to the mom for her birthday last January. You will NEVER believe where the mom and one of the daughters were from...ST. LOUIS! Well, technically, Webster Groves, but that's part of St. Louis too! I couldn't believe it...and it just goes to prove my mom was right, you can't talk about anybody! We met our instructor, Marizio and we took a tour of the Mercato Centrale (or the Central Market).

This is where all the local restaurants get the fresh ingredients for the day's menu. They have everything from horse to hair, chicken to cow, dried fruit to dried pasta, oils and spices to fresh name it! And there was a second floor dedicated to fresh produce of all kinds.

One of the vendor's gave us a short tutorial class on balsamic vinegars, olive oils, truffles and parmesan cheeses. This woman had a great presentation and lots of great information!

Next we met with the rest of our class members and made a rendezvous with the taxi driver. We rode in a van out to a villa on a hillside in Signet, a neighboring town to Florence. The villa was beautiful and boasted some nice views! We were left outside to wander around before the class began. There was another couple who had made the journey to the villa for the class on their own. Everyone was so nice! And better still, everyone was so on board about taking lots of pictures!

Once we were brought inside the kitchen, we found the room quite large and welcoming. There was a large fireplace on one end and a very long table set for all of us in the center. We met our other instructor, Liza. What a wonderful lady! She was informative and patient and smart and funny!! I took lots of pictures.

A lot of the photos came out blurry in the faces or hands. Everything was moving so fast. The class lasted all day, more than 8 hours altogether! We were given the recipes for all the dishes we made including: tiramisu, Sausage and cheese crustinis, fresh pasta for lasagna, fresh pesto for the gnocchi, a black olive chicken dish, and even how to use that weird Italian coffee maker!

We had one at our apartment, but didn't really know how to use it. After this class, we had the best coffee ever! I still want to get one of these for my house...

The class was alot of fun and yummy! I will always remember it and smile. The taste of Tuscany shall live on in my heart and my memories! Thank you so much A and P for the very gracious gift that only you could have given me!

I sure wish I could remember everyone's names...for that I feel bad! I did make some great friends that day...even if we were only friends for one day. Speaking of friends, my friend A also sent this to me today. It's called 'The Flea' and was just about my favorite pieces at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. (I like it because I think she looks like me)


Serena said...

Hello there Becca,

Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos of your trip to Italy. They looked really good especially the kitchen hands on experiences ones. I enjoyed looking at the photos and sharing your joy when you were participating in those cooking adventures.

I am sorry to decline the birthday meme for this week. This is something that I don't celebrate. Please forgive me. As usual, I will look forward to next week's meme eagerly.


Sandee (Comedy +) said...

First, you're welcome for the cake. You know I always have cake for my friends on their birthdays. I love all the shots of your trip. Trip of a lifetime is right. I hae always wanted to go. Maybe someday. Thanks for sharing your birthday with all of us Becca, and I'm glad you had a great day. :)

Alison said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BECCA!!! Sorry I am so late in wishing you one! Hope your day was fantastic - these pictures look like you had lots of fun!! :)

shell said...

AWESOME PICS! ou look like an O-L-D(lol!) pro in the kitchen!
happy birfday to ya again!!

Bola said...

Happy birthday Becca,it's always fun to celebrate a birthday.Lovely pics from your trip,hope you had a wonderful time?
You were tagged at for 7 random things about yourself.

Amelia said...

The market looks fabulous! I wish we'd made it there before they closed that day so I could oogle the produce and buy some balsamic vinegar. But then, I've been to an Italian market before (in Venice) but how many chances to you get to see Galileo's middle finger (appropriate, given that he was right and outcast for it, no)? Oh, and his telescopes?

I'm glad you got some good pics!

Happy day after your big day,