A MANUSCRIPT IN THE MAKING

I'm writing a book.

A computer on a table on a terrace with a view in Tuscany


I know I said the same thing in my last post six months ago, but - rather annoyingly- that's still what I do.

It takes an infuriating amount of time to get all these words onto the screen. And once the words are on there, they start, just like my kids, to behave unruly and look badly spelt (spelled?), and it takes another infuriating (used same word already above) amount of time (synonym for time?) to tease them into a an attractive form and lovely singsong that hopefully - one day not too far - you people may want to read.

On a less artistic level I also spend a lot of time running after the pages of the manuscript, which, once gone with the wind, tend to get chewed up by our neighbour's sheep. That's one more reason why the Map It Out Tuscany, Siena and Montalcino blogs have turned into a sort of wasteland lately. Luckily, I planted a few sturdy succulents long ago, which keep this blog alive even though wasn't around here much already during the year before starting work on the manuscript. I was far too busy then with living through the story the book will tell - a story that focuses on the daily ups and downs of the workings of a refugee home in a Tuscan hilltop town and my experience in the midst of it.  

Migration and the so called 'refugee crisis' and the impact of the two on a small village and an improvised shelter in the Tuscan hinterland are the main topics of the book. If complicated (intricate?) matters like these speak to you, bear with me. I'm going to publish The Trouble with Helping (working title) in English in autumn 2016, and further down the lane also in Italian and German.

Drop me an email, if you'd like to be informed once the The Trouble with Helping is ready to roll. Just write 'book news' or something similar in the header and I'll add you to the mailing list. I know there are clever apps out there that would make it easier for you to sign up to my book list, but I haven't had the nerves yet to figure them out. Because - as I said - I'm sitting here typing away. 

A dog, a cat and a table with a Tuscan view
If only they could write it for me.

THE TALE (and some pics) OF THE PERFECT TUSCAN CHRISTMAS LUNCH

I'm writing a book. Hence I raise the wordcount by cutting down on aperitifs (not an easy feat in my Tuscan village), and I keep the storyline going by dodging invitations to Sunday lunch. But when I know that the table will look like this...

The table setting for a Tuscan Christmas lunch in the Chianti



and the food like this

Eggs poached in tomato sauce and Olivier salad

it's hard to resist...



Hence we drove to the Chianti and followed the crowd through the woods to jump into the midst of the clatter, chatter and laughter of a Tuscan Christmas gathering,

Tommy and Giulia serving the second course during a Tuscan Christmas lunch


The long table of a Tuscan Christmas lunch in the ChiantiA bottle of Chianti shared by the guests of a Tuscan Christmas gathering


which was cleverly interrupted by countryside walks to make sure there was room for more,

A group of people walking on a trail through the woods in the Chianti
until - inevitably - the moment arrived, when all the plates were licked and the last bottle of Chianti was emptied and it was time to go home (you said you drive, right?). 

Empty bottles and wine glasses on a decorated table in the Chianti





















INGREDIENTS FOR A TUSCAN GATHERING

Lunch was organized by Emiko Davies and Giulia from Juls' Kitchen, who with the help of their respective partners put together a fabulous Christmas menu. Wines were served by Sarah Fioroni from San Gimignano's Fattoria Poggio all'Oro

Good chats were had with lots of people, but I drunk too much to remember all of them - (Sarah thanks for filling up my glass! But through the mist I definitely remember having met the owners of some fabulous B&Bs and agriturismi in Tuscany and Rome - they obviously managed to leave a vivid impression. 
  • Irene Berni and Paolo from the incredibly stylish Val di Rose near Florence
  • Luisa and Matthias from the ideally located Agriturismo Il Rigo in the midst of Val d'Orcia
  • Linda and Steve from The Beehive, my favorite B&B and hostel in Rome 
  • and Molly McIlwrath - no accommodation here, but plenty of useful Tuscany based information (I've alreday told you about Molly in my article about family tours in Florence)
All of this took place in the fairytale location of la Selva giardino del Belvedere, which - like B&B Val di Rose and Il Rigo mentioned above - is not just a great venue for a festive lunch but also for a romantic wedding in Tuscany. For the recipes don't ask me (no hope there) but find all the details needed to create the perfect porcini polenta or fig filled panforte on Emiko's and Giulia's blogs.

Two bowls in front of the fire in a traditional Tuscan ovenA contemporary amphitheater in the Tuscan woodsThe heavenly swings at la SelvaCandles and quinces on top of the fireplace

THE OLIVE HARVEST 2015 - all good news at last for an excellent EVOO

Crates of olives are emptied at the olive press


There are a lot of olives to be picked in 2015 - and they are all in excellent shape. The Italian olive harvest 2015 is the exact opposite of the utterly miserable harvest that took place in 2014. This October and November plenty of olives are being turned into some of the best Tuscan and Italian extra virgin olive oils of the last decade or two. 

The extremely hot summer may have been hard to deal with for humans, but the high temperatures were ideal for Italy's olive trees, since the heat stopped the reproduction of the crazy pests that run havoc in the groves the year before (the male of the olive fly goes sterile once temperature hits 32 degrees).  

THE OLIVE HARVEST 2015 in NUMBERS

Our fifty plus trees produced 815 kg of olives with a yield of 90 kg of extra virgin olive oil  - during the 2014 harvest we picked a mere 90 kg of olives which produced 8 kg of EVOO. For more info on our average yields read my detailed post about the disastrous olive harvest 2014. This autumn the picking has been so pain free that there isn't really much to write about! 

Our olive oil is for family use only, but if you're planning to stock up on quality EVOO, 2015 is a great year to buy the one produced in Tuscany. And if a taste of this one fine harvest has convinced you to buy your very own olive grove, make sure you read Olive Picking for Dummies first. 


Tools for the olive harvest on a table in a Tuscan olive grove


Nets to collect the olives under a tree in an olive grove


A dog and a Tuscan native picking olives with an electric tool


Olives being unloaded from an Ape car at the Frantoio (olive press)


A girl counting the crates of picked olives on a lorry arriving at the press


Two Tuscan farmers waiting for the first oil


A dog under an olive tree during the harvest 2015


Healthy black and green olives on a Tuscan tree in autumn 2015



A lorry filled with crates of our Tuscan olives


A table in an Italian olive grove by the end of the harvest and a few forgotten olives


The freshly pressed EVOO at the frantoio

TUSCANY IN SPRING: A PHOTOGUIDE



Ochre, terracotta and any existing shade of burnt sienna are the colours that come to mind when thinking of the famous rolling hills. However, for a few months each year, the Tuscan landscape doesn't look like something coming out of a pottery workshop, but like Ireland in summer. Minus the rain. And the Guinness. 









TUSCANY IN SPRING
It won't last though. Unless Tuscany's warm season is unusally wet like the incredibly rainy summer 2014, the landscape will look like this by the end of spring.

A glass of Vermentino wine in front of the the ocre colored Tuscan hills in July

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