Jeff arrived in London this afternoon and is working on his jetlag - I know that the girls and I are glad to know that he is close (geographically) to us; it will still a few more days until we see each other, but knowing that we are all on the same side of the Atlantic is comforting.

candiesAfter breakfast we were picked up by two ex-pat Brits and taken to the Chivasso market. (Chivasso is about a 15 minute drive from the little town where we are staying.) I have been to many markets in the past, but this one was block after block after block. It was huge! We also stopped into a few bakeries to look at all of their beautiful creations, particularly little hazelnut cookies and cakes that are famous in this region. There were a few fun candy stores as well which I had to force Julia to go in to.  ;)

We bought some fruit (strawberries and peaches) to take back to eat later in the day, and after a few sweaty hours, Adam and Yenka returned us to the B&B. Next up was cooking - today's lesson was pizza, tiramisu, and '7 cup cake'. I must admit that I usually hate tiramisu. I find it too soggy and sweet, but the one we made today was delicious! It was really interesting to make because it has so many raw eggs in it - I wonder if you would even be allowed to serve it like this in North America? We whipped the yolks with sugar until it became the most amazing texture before adding marscapone cheese. The stiffly beaten egg whites were then delicately folded in and it became a gorgeous, fluffy custard. A quick dip of ladyfingers in espresso, some layering, and ta-da! Completely different than any tiramisu I have had in the past.

The pizza dough was relatively simple, just a little time consuming. Julia has really gotten the knack of kneading after making so many different types of dough in the last few days. We left the dough to rise for the rest of the afternoon as we were having it for dinner. We zipped through our cooking so quickly that Francesca suggested we make a cake for an afternoon snack. It is a very simple recipe; 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of yogurt or milk, 1 cup of oil/butter/fat, and 3 whole eggs. Hence the name, "7 cup cake". Here though, a cup is not the same as a cup at home - it is actually the size of a small yogurt container, which measures to 1/2 c for our North American measuring cups. All of their cooking measurements are in weight, not cups, so I have been using a small water glass as a measuring cup most times! As per Francesca's suggestion, we didn't use two whole cups of sugar, it was more like a heaping single cup. It is the easiest recipe ever - you literally dump all of those ingredients into a single bowl and then whisk it all together. You can add anything you'd like to the batter - today we added two grated carrots and some cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. It was so delicious and the perfect amount of sweetness. As we ate it Julia thought we should make it with apples and cinnamon - and we will definitely make this at home!

Today has been the hottest day so far, so after the afternoon cooking lesson we went to the pool for an hour or so. Thank goodness for the pool! After swimming we did a little packing as tomorrow we head to Milan by train. We are planning on going to Turin a bit early tomorrow so we can explore - we arrived at the train station but didn't see any of the city before leaving to head out to Casalborgone, where our B&B is located.

pizzaAfter a little down time and rest, we went back to the kitchen around 6 pm to prepare the pizzas for dinner. The dough had risen substantially, and we had great fun taking chunks of it and squishing it into the various pans. There are 4 extra girls staying here tonight along with the three daughters of our host family. Luckily for the husband he had an engagement tonight, because all together we had 11 females eating dinner, and I know he would've been drowned by the estrogen!

We each made our own personal pan pizzas with various toppings Julia and I had chopped up: peppers, onions, mushrooms, spicy salami, eggplant, zucchini, and of course super fresh mozzarella. Oh, and the most fragrant and amazing oregano ever! Julia and I have already discussed that we can't leave this region without buying a bag of it. It will enhance every dish we make!

We also learned how to make focaccia, which was so interesting! We took the pizza dough, and after squishing it into a pan we poked a bunch of holes in it with our fingers. Then a bottle is filled with half olive oil, half water, and an extra-large pinch of coarse salt, which is shaken together and poured over top. Interesting! If you have rosemary, put it on top… Super yum! How weird is that - who invented it?

To cap everything off was the tiramisu. Absolutely superb. And then some local gelato and some fancy sparkling Italian fruit wine… what a night! It was a great ending to our time here, and if you find yourself in Northern Italy and want some local hospitality, this is the place. ViaVai B&B.

tiramisuAfter dinner, Julia played Qwirkle with 4 Italian girls - it is great how games can bridge a culture gap. (Julia won!) It finally ended when dusk made it too difficult to see the game pieces and the mosquitoes became particularly hungry. We have had a really nice time here, and tomorrow we move on to our next experience. This is off the beaten tourist path - it is worth a visit if you want to get away from the English menus and typical guide book ideas. Lovely people, great food, and history to boot.  :)

I want to start this off with a shout out to my husband of 19 years! Today is our anniversary, and not only are we not together for the first time ever, but we are actually on different continents. He leaves tonight from Calgary to start heading in this direction, and I am really looking forward to seeing him. Actually, I know that all four of us are ready to put our nuclear family back together!  :)

pasta makingRight after breakfast was our second cooking class, and today we made homemade pasta with two sauces - a fresh tomato sauce and pesto. Making pasta was fun, but it was time consuming and I understand the invention of packaged pasta! Julia made the dough and then we put it through a pasta squisher (not sure of the correct term!). It went twice through one setting, twice through a thinner setting, and then once through the one that makes it the thickness that you want (tagliatelle vs. spaghetti vs. angel hair). We then hung it to dry while made a beautiful fresh tomato sauce with only onions, olive oil, and fresh tomatoes. A sprinkle of salt and sugar and that is it! No garlic or other spices… I must admit that I was skeptical… but it was amazing! The onions were fried in a liberal amount of olive oil for about 15 minutes - maybe that makes a difference? p10estoThen we made a fresh pesto sauce with a huge amount of fresh basil, parmesan, olive oil and hazelnuts. YUUUUUM. Our homemade pasta was so thin and tasty - I completely understand why you would put in the effort!

Our hostess was heading into town to the grocery store, and we decided to tag along. It was so hot today, and we knew that we couldn't stay in the pool all afternoon without frying! The grocery store seemed like a great excursion - we love to see both the similarities and differences in foreign foods. We had fun browsing the aisles, and as a bonus we found some awesome anti-itch mosquito stuff that Julia has since been using like crazy. She is a mosquito magnet so this has been fantastic. We bought a few other tidbits as well as some ice cream to eat while we were waiting for our hostess to finish shopping. It was a nice way to pass an hour and see something different.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool - Julia and I played water volleyball for a bit before I admitted defeat and retreated to read my book in the shade. It is so nice having a pool here - it was definitely a selling feature of this place when I was looking for a cooking B&B. Julia loves to swim, and I knew we would both be happier if she could have a chance to get in the pool every day.

prosecco juliaWe were on our own for dinner tonight so we walked down the hill to a pizzeria that was recommended to us. We obviously were early birds as there was no one else there (aside from the staff) when we arrived. Interestingly enough, after we sat down they quickly brought over two glasses of prosecco! They were placed down on the table with a flourish, and then the waiter left. Julia was sure that she was given sparkling water, but I tasted it and it was NOT water. Things that make you go, "HMMMM". More for me? The food was absolutely delicious, and by the time we left more than half of the tables were full. One thing that caused us great intrigue was a single man who absolutely devoured his food. It was as though he was on Survivor and hadn't seen food in weeks! He must have pre-ordered, because when he arrived his small table had a Flintstone-sized T-bone steak, a mixed salad, a half litre of red wine, a cup of ice, and a litre of water. He attacked his rare steak like an animal - barely chewing and cutting off huge pieces of it. Then he (the horror!) poured himself half a glass of red wine and added ice and water! And then chugged it down! It was insanely fascinating. He eventually slowed down and looked as though he was entering a fairly serious food coma. I wonder if this is his usual practice?

treesWe walked home and found some really interesting things along the way; a garden full of blooming artichokes, an old pathway from hundreds of years ago, and *my favourite* an old Roman road with perfect trees. We are up on the site of a really old castle, but unfortunately after reading the informational plaque I soon forgot most of the information! What I did retain, however, was that it was built in the 11th century - boggling. You can see evidence of a lot of very old things around here, and I love it.  :)

Julia and I retreated to our room pretty early and I am sitting here writing this blog post while she googles card tricks. She actually learned one and 'tricked' me with it - she was inspired after I showed her my one fancy trick this afternoon. I have been doing it since I was ten years old, and if I haven't shown it to you yet, ask me… your mind will be blown. ;)

We chatted with Chloe tonight, and although we are all having fun we are looking forward to seeing each other this weekend. Oh, and please don't let lighting strike us, but Julia and I are craving sushi and tacos!! We are eating fantastic Italian food every day, but we are used to an eclectic meal rotation. It's funny how the grass is always greener…


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