December 26th 2014, Montalcino, Italy - Lea's Birthday - Day 131

We had agreed early in the trip that we would not do gifts on any of our birthdays.  Since we all had a birthday while on the trip we would all be in the same boat and the trip itself was intended to be the present.  This had worked well for everyone and we tried to make the day great without presents.  Stacie visited some gardens, Peter had a great day on safari and I went to Montepulciano and Pienza - for Lea we decided to surprise her with a visit to a natural hot spring about a half hour away.

First when she woke up we tried to recreate the morning she loves so much when we are at the cabin for her birthday.  We decorated the tree with balloons, put some paper hats on top and on the stairs and tried to make the place festive.  We typically head out to the Pancake House in McCall, Idaho and she gets pigs in a blanket.  We could not find all we needed, but we did produce a really good french toast with pancetta lardons - both Peter and Lea loved it.  

After breakfast we got ready and headed out to Fosso Bianco, a natural hot spring near the tiny town of Bagni San Fillipo.  It was an easy 30 min drive, and a nice sunny day, but it was cold and a little windy.  We parked and then headed down about a short trail to the hot springs.  T

hese are completely undeveloped and there are really no rules, so we found Italians all over the trail trying to find the right spot.  There was not a lot of really hot water so you kind of has to work to find a good area.  Our first was under a hot waterfall, which was nice but the beating you took got old after about 15 to 20 mins.  

After that we wandered back up stream and found the best spot on the creek empty and waiting for us.  WE jumped in and had a great soak in the mineral water.  

We stayed there for about 30 mins and then decided to head home.  The walk back was cold and we were frozen by the time we made it to the car, but we still had fun getting there.

Once back at the ranch we has a little down time and then Stacie and I started preparing Lea's birthday dinner.  We made meatballs the night before in anticipation of a busy day, so all we had to do was to make some mashed potatoes and some pasta to complete the meal.  Spaghetti and meatballs with mashed potatoes is a little bit of a strange combination, but they are Lea's favorites and on your birthday you get your favorites, especially when you are this far away from home.  

While we were waiting for dinner we gave Lea her cards.  Peter, Stacie and I had written notes on one, which prompted Lea to give out hugs, even one to her brother, which is rare, but I got it on film!

Then Stacie gave Lea the best present she could have - a card from all of her friends.  Thinking ahead is not my strong suit, but thank heaven I have an amazing wife who does think ahead.  A week prior Stacie had emailed the mothers of all of Lea's closest friends asking them to send back a note from each girl with birthday wishes for Lea.  She collected all of them and then transcribed them on to a card from her friends.  It was so sweet and meant everything to Lea, leading to a very long and special hug.  

After the cards and a wonderful dinner came the best part of the meal.  Stacie had made a cheesecake, (again Lea's favorite) for desert.  We were not sure how it would turn out because she had to make it all from scratch, including the crust, but I can safely say it was the best cheesecake I have ever eaten - and everyone agreed.

All in all a very special day for a very special teenager!  Happy 13th buggy.