Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: I CHOOSE

The other day on the way up the mountain to the ski resort, I made a comment about how it would be nice if the conditions were better and it would be nice if it wasn't so crowded. Andrew turned to me and said, "We need to choose to be grateful. We live in a beautiful place, and we are lucky. We can't live our lives feeling like things could be better. Let's be happy for what we have." And he was right. Minutes later we were on top of the mountain with an amazing view and the warm sun shining and breathing the fresh air and our able bodies skiing down the run. We ARE lucky.

After that comment, I thought maybe my word for 2014 would be grateful. I have a lot to be grateful for, and I certainly don't want to spend my life wishing for more. But for me, it's really about much more than just feeling grateful. It's a choice that I want to make daily.

Last year I had some unfortunate things happen to me, and that's a frustrating feeling. I also saw terrible things happen to people I love. The most inspiring story of my year is a dear friend who went through an incredibly painful and difficult break and chose to deal with it compassionately and gracefully. She has come out on the other side stronger, braver and wiser, and it's incredibly inspiring. Choice is powerful.

This year with a fresh start, I want to sink into choosing. I want to pay attention to the agency I have even when it feels like things are happening to me.

In 2014, I choose



to be grateful,

to AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE the positive,

to align my actions with my priorities,

to be more vulnerable,

to cultivate resiliency,

to continue to PURSUE,

to nurture friendships and connections,

to be compassionate towards myself and others,

to show up and be brave.

Above all, I CHOOSE to choose.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mango Chutney and a Story of Acting Like a Crazy Person (It happens to all of us, right?)

Here is my final Thanksgiving recipe recap - the mango chutney to accompany our leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. We usually buy jars of chutney, but keeping with this year's theme, I decided to make my own.

As I've said before, this is our favorite Thanksgiving leftover sandwich - turkey, brie, mango chutney and greens on some good bread. And Andrew's family always eats their Thanksgiving leftovers with Ruffles chips, everyone's once a year guilty pleasure. Yum!

I have a confession though - I used store-bought bread for our sandwiches. I feel very lame about this, especially since I had just received a sourdough starter a few days earlier from my friend Erin. At least I had the chutney though!

Do you ever set a challenge for yourself and then impose really strict rules and guidelines? For several years in grad school, I was really into counting my steps. It started as an innocent challenge in a public health class to see who could rack up the most steps. It quickly spiraled out of control (for me - I think my classmates were all able to keep themselves in check). I kept track of my steps in my planner compulsively, and I dreaded getting sick or feeling tired, not because of how I felt, but because those days really brought down my average. At the time, the average American walked 10,000 steps per day. I had set a minimum of 20,000 for myself. Inevitably, there would be a few days each year when I would forget my pedometer, and I wouldn't have any data. Those were the worst, and I had to walk even further to keep my average up. I was addicted to my pedometer.

In late January 2008, after several years of tracking my steps and only a few short weeks after vowing to not miss a single day that year, I literally freaked out one morning when I realized that I had gotten out of bed, walked all the way to the kitchen to have breakfast and I wasn't wearing my pedometer. I ordered Andrew to go to the bedroom and get it for me so I wouldn't miss any more steps. He tried to tell me that it wouldn't make much of a difference, he tried to calm me down, he tried to reassure me that my year was not ruined. I, of course, would have none of that reasonableness. After he retrieved the pedometer for me and I ranted about how I was going to have count on 2009 as being a perfect year since 2008 was already ruined, he asked if I really wanted to keep counting my steps. What's that, honey? Do I really want to keep counting my steps??? The pressure of a perfect year was too much, and I decided to put my pedometer away that morning. It never came back out because I couldn't bring myself to do it halfway. It was all or nothing, and the all was just too much stress.

When my homemade sourdough loaves turned out less than perfect and I was forced to buy store-bought bread (forced by Andrew who convinced me that it was just too much work to bake more bread), I had a similar feeling to that morning in 2008. But it's supposed to be a homemade Thanksgiving - 100% homemade. I had to remind myself that this was my idea and that everyone would be perfectly happy with the bread. It still bothers me though. Next year!

Luckily the chutney turned out fantastic and totally distracted me from the bread.

Mango Chutney

3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup golden raisins (I left these out since I don't like raisins)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled ginger root
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt

Makes 5 cups

Combine apples, mangoes, red pepper, sugar, onion, raisins, vinegar, and ginger root in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and boil gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until fruit is tender and mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally.

Add lemon juice, curry powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt; boil gently for 5 minutes.

See original link above for canning instructions. I refrigerated mine in an air-tight container. I made this on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and we ate it all on the following Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Satsuma Mojitos

New Orleans is calling lately.

First we enjoyed Sazeracs at a bar downtown. They were perfectly balanced and after my first one, I was ready to book a ticket to New Orleans ASAP!

Then this weekend, I pulled out an old recipe for Satsuma Mojitos and saw that it is from Cochon in New Orleans.

These mojitos are light, refreshing, citrusy and a perfect way to capture some of the citrusy sun and infuse these dreary winter evenings. Actually, it's easy to forget that there's even alcohol in these.

Energy of the sun!

Satsuma Mojito

Makes 2 drinks

1 lime, halved
3 Satsumas, halved
4 springs fresh mint
1/2 cup light rum
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1/2 cup club soda

Squeeze the the juice from the lime into a shaker. Remove the fruit from the Satsuma rinds and place in shaker. Tear up the leaves from 2 springs of mint and place in shaker. Muddle.

Add 1/2 cup rum, 2 tablespoons simple syrup and ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into two glasses filled with ice. Top each glass with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) club soda.

Garnish each glass with a sprig of mint.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

This year was the first year that Andrew and I spent Christmas alone with just the two four of us. We usually alternate between spending Christmas in Minnesota and Christmas with Andrew's family. For a variety of reasons, it just didn't work out this year for us to travel so we stayed in Santa Fe and enjoyed our holiday of two + our two sweet girls. Although I missed being with family and all of the usual traditions, it was a lot of fun to make our own traditions. Canyon Road, strolling hand in hand around the Plaza, catching up with friends, sleeping in, cuddling on the lifts, a day of skiing following by raclette, cheesy delicious comfort in front of the fire. As it turns out, Andrew is quite the raclette master. My favorite plate he made had bread, dijon, caramelized onions, apples, pancetta, cheese, ham and more cheese.

Scenes from Christmas 2013

We don't exchange gifts with each other, but Elsa was pretty lucky this year. She got a smart phone!

We decided she was old enough. Lola was jealous.

She wanted a tablet, but Santa didn't deliver.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust

The morning after breakfast

Ugh, I just typed this whole post and then blogger deleted it...

So, I'll try to recreate the lost magic.

Out of all of the major hits of my Thanksgiving menu, this tart is my very favorite. Everything about it is perfect. Honestly.

I always make pumpkin and apple pies, and I wanted to add a third dessert. With three large men (see exhibit A below), I figured I would need to up the desserts. Everyone loves left over Thanksgiving dessert for breakfasts and snacks, and the last thing I wanted was to run out early in the weekend.

Exhibit A. This is typical in Andrew's family.

I thought chocolate would round out our desserts really well, and I was right. I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. While we were in Moab, we had a discussion about the best and most reliable blogs for recipes. I find that consistently, Smitten Kitchen is packed full of recipe winners. Deb never lets me down, and I can really count on her. It has become my go to source for recipes online, and it's always a good starting point if I'm looking for something new.

This tart is rich. The kind that you want to eat thin slices of with some unsweetened whipped cream on top. It's not for those of you who like sweet chocolate desserts. For many years in my teens and early twenties, I didn't like chocolate. It was too sweet, and I didn't like that filmy residue it left on my teeth. Luckily I discovered dark chocolate in adulthood, and now I can't get enough.

The gingersnap crust complements the chocolate really well. It's not overwhelming like some gingersnap crusts I've tried.

I'm so happy that this tart came into my life. I'm totally serious. This is delicious.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust
From Bon Appétit, November 2007 via Smitten Kitchen

8 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 32 cookies), coarsely broken
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted ++ (we found that we needed more butter than the recipe calls for)

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Softly whipped cream, for serving

For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor (yielding 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups). Add melted butter and process until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. (I used a ceramic tart pan that I already have that does not have a removable bottom.) Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

For filling:
Combine finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour, ground black pepper, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crust.

Bake chocolate tart until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely. 

Cut tart into thin wedges and serve with softly whipped cream.

Monday, December 16, 2013


The other day I was chatting with a friend about something related to work. I was talking about my approach to something or other, and she said to me, “Yeah, that’s because you’re from the midwest. Midwestern work ethic.”

Ever since that conversation, I’ve been thinking about my Midwestern sensibilities. Although I haven’t lived in Minnesota full-time in over a decade, I think Midwestern is not something you can easily shake. I will always be a Midwesterner at heart. Always, always, always.

In addition to my work ethic, one of the sensibilities I have engrained to my core is fierce loyalty. I am tough to win over, and I admit I have extremely high standards, but once I'm on your side, I will always and forever be loyal.

I’m not the type to follow college sports or join a sorority or be involved in my alumni association, yet, I will always be fiercely, absolutely fiercely, loyal to the U, my undergraduate alma mater. (I think this goes without saying, but unless you’re from Minnesota, the U probably means something different to you. For Andrew, it means the University of Utah. But all of us in the know know that it means the University of Minnesota.thank.you.very.much!) Rah, rah, rah for ski-u-mah!

When I was teaching in France, I taught my students our fight song, the Minnesota Rouser, and they loved it. Imagine a bunch of twelve years olds wandering around the streets of a tiny town in the southern Alps with the Rouser stuck in their heads. Heart melting! My oldest friend Rosie and I took every opportunity that year to sing the Rouser when we got homesick. She didn't even go to the U as an undergrad, and although she went there for grad school, I don't think she had ever attended at the time. We even sung the Rouser at our wedding reception, much to the surprise of Andrew's family.

I’m loyal to all things Minnesota really, but my favorites are the U, of course, and the Minnesota State Fair, the best in the nation, and Northeast Minneapolis, the best urban neighborhood in the country, and the Grand Rounds, the world’s longest urban parkway and the best darn walk anyone could ever take.

I know I'm not alone. We Midwesterners seem to be a loyal people.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Parker House Rolls

OMG, you guys, these are AMAZING! So buttery and fluffy and slightly sweet. In my opinion, they are the perfect Thanksgiving roll.

Golden buttery awesomeness!

I was looking for another bread option to complement the herb and cheese poppers, and these puppies were exactly what I needed.

I made these the Monday night before Thanksgiving, let them cool completely (not without eating several straight out of the pan, despite it being ten minutes before my bedtime...) and then packed them in freezer bags to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. I wouldn't recommend doing this. The rolls were over the top good on Monday night, but I thought they lacked the pop of buttery flavor that was so strong right out of the oven and they were a little dry by Thursday. It was still fine by me because I didn't have much choice about having to make them ahead of time, and everyone still raved about them. But, I have pretty high standards, and I only want to eat things that are super good so I am probably being too hard on myself. Overall though the pre-made Parker House Rolls paled in comparison to the fresh out-of-the-oven herb and cheese rolls. Lesson learned - you can't compete with fresh baked bread products. Don't even try.

They are called Parker House rolls because they were and are still served at the Parker House Hotel in Boston starting in the 1870s. You know I love a recipe with some history!

Parker House Rolls
From The Gourmet Cookbook via Joy the Baker

makes 20 rolls

3 tablespoons warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 (1/4-ounce) package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 – 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Stir together warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and yeast in a small bowl until yeast in dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. If the mixture does not foam up, discard and start over with different yeast.

Melt 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter in a small saucepan. Add the milk and heat until lukewarm. Pour into a large bowl and add yeast mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, bread flour, and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Stir in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, dump out onto a clean work surface and begin to bring the dough together into a ball. If your dough is too sticky to handle, add up to 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough is just slightly sticky.

Knead dough until a smooth and elastic dough begins to form, adding more all-purpose flour as needed. The dough will be smooth, satiny and just slightly sticky after 10 minutes. (this took me more like 15+ minutes)

Form dough into a ball and place in a large, buttered bowl, turning the dough so that the entire ball is covered. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rest n a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Divide dough into 20 equal pieces. Roll each one into a ball and arrange evenly in 4 rows of 5 in a baking pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Using a floured chopstick or the edge of a ruler, make a deep crease down the center of each row of rolls. (I did't have either so I used my dough scraper. This wasn't the best substitute...) Let the rolls rise, loosely covered for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and cool slightly. Brush the tops of the rolls with butter and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool rolls in the pan for 5 minutes then remove and serve warm. AND eat warm!

Herb and Cheese Poppers

An urban cheese popper, for all you city dwellers out there!

I made these to accompany our Thanksgiving dinner, and they were very popular. Bread, cheese and herbs? Yes, please. It's hard to go wrong there.

I made and cut the dough two weeks ahead of time, froze the poppers and thawed and baked them fresh on Thanksgiving. These were easy to pull together, and I loved the technique of grating the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. It's much easier than using a pastry cutter, I think. The direction to fold the dough like a business letter was a little weird, I thought, but basically you should tri-fold the dough as though it was a piece of paper you were going to put into an envelope. You do this four times so the cheese and herbs are nicely distributed throughout the dough.

Nothing can beat fresh out of the oven bread, and this was a really easy way to include that in my already busy Thanksgiving cooking schedule. I popped them in the oven after the stuffing and sweet potatoes came out and while the turkey was being carved.

Herb and Cheese Poppers

2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces) (I used the Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour plus 1/4 cup (or more) for dusting and rolling
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
1 1/2 cups chilled buttermilk

Mix cheese and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Whisk 2 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in another medium bowl. Using large holes of box grater, grate frozen butter onto plate. Add grated butter to flour mixture and rub in with fingertips until evenly distributed. Stir in buttermilk just until incorporated (dough will be sticky).

Sprinkle work surface with 1/4 cup flour. Transfer dough to work surface; sprinkle dough with flour. Using hands, press dough into 8-inch square, about 1/2 inch thick; sprinkle more flour on work surface as needed to prevent sticking. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese-herb mixture over 2/3 of surface of dough, leaving remaining 1/3 of dough surface uncovered.

To fold as for business letter: Using dough scraper or metal spatula as aid, lift uncovered dough portion from work surface and fold over half of cheese-covered portion; still using dough scraper or metal spatula as aid, lift folded portion over remaining cheese-covered portion.

Sprinkle dough with flour to prevent sticking. Press dough out again to 8-inch square. Spread 1/2 cup cheese-herb mixture over 2/3 of dough; repeat folding as for business letter, then pressing dough out to 8-inch square. Repeat 2 more times with dough and cheese-herb mixture.

Roll out dough on floured surface to 10-inch square; cut into 36 small pieces.

DO AHEAD: Place biscuits in single layer on baking sheets; freeze until firm. Wrap biscuits in single layer in foil, then enclose in resealable freezer bags; freeze up to 2 weeks. Place frozen biscuits 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets; thaw in refrigerator overnight. Let biscuits stand at room temperature 20 minutes before baking.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 500°F. Bake biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Cool biscuits on baking sheet at least 5 minutes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gorgonzola and Fig Terrine with Olive Oil Crackers

I made this terrine for one of our Thanksgiving appetizers this year, along with the creamy beet dip. I didn't think the terrine was too much to look at, but I dressed it up with some toasted walnuts and grapes. I kid you not, this was gone in under five minutes! It was a huge hit.

I organized all of my old cooking magazines this fall as part of our new office/house makeover. Despite being encouraged for years to toss them because everything is online these days, I just can't part with my old copies of Gourmet and Bon Appétit. I love flipping through them, reading the articles, seeing the photos. Previously, they have sat in stacks on the bottom of the bookcase and moved around from house to house with us. They were organized chronologically, but it was useless. For my new system, I bought magazine holders at Target and organized them by month and season. Pulling out the big stack of Thanksgiving magazines and paging through them this year to make my menu was awesome. And, I did manage to find a few recipes that were not online, thank.you.very.much. This is one of them.

This recipe is from the Favorite Restaurant Recipes section of Bon Appétit, November 2005. A Ms. Martino from Reno, Nevada was lucky enough to dine at Lombardino's in Madison where she enjoyed the gorgonzola and fig terrine.

Since it was Thanksgiving, and a homemade one at that, I wanted to make my own crackers to accompany the terrine. I love olive oil crackers, but they are like $8 for a pack of six crackers sooooo, I made my own. I used the recipe on 101 Cookbooks and slightly adapted it to what I had on hand. They were super simple and easy and so tasty. The dough was smooth and silky and a dream to work with. Heidi suggests using a pasta machine to roll them out, but I didn't feel like going to the trouble so I just used my rolling pin with no trouble. I added coarse sea salt and chopped fresh rosemary to the tops before I baked them.

The recipe below made enough crackers to serve five people for our Thanksgiving and day-after appetizers. I made them on the Saturday night before Thanksgiving, let them cool completely and then packed in freezer bags. They were still fresh and crispy almost a week later. There are so many variations you can do with these, and I'm looking forward to making them again!

Gorgonzola and Fig Terrine
Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2005

1/2 cup fig jam
1 1/2 cups crumbled gorgonzola cheese
5 1/2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
Assorted grapes
Crackers (See recipe below)

Line a small loaf pan (about 6x4x2) with foil. Using electric mixer, beat gorgonzola and cream cheese to blend. 

Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/4 cup fig jam over cheese. Now, this is the tricky part - spread another 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the fig jam. It won't be super pretty, but do the best you can. Spread another 1/2 cup of fig jam and top with remaining cheese mixture.

Cover terrine and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours. (I made this on the Monday night before Thanksgiving, wrapped really well and stored in a freezer bag to serve on Thursday.)

Remove terrine from fridge 30 minutes before serving. Unwrap, carefully invert terrine onto serving platter. It will not look beautiful, but rest assured that it will taste wonderful. Garnish with toasted walnuts and grapes. Serve with crackers.

Olive Oil Crackers
Slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon fine grain salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly chopped rosemary, about 3 tablespoons
or, any topping you prefer such as a spice blend, nuts, freshly grated cheese, etc.

Whisk together flours and salt. Add water and olive oil. Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix the dough at medium speed for about 5-7 minutes. Or, you can mix and knead by hand. The dough should be slightly tacky - not too dry and not too sticky to work with. 

Shape the dough into a large ball and cut into 12 equal size pieces (I cut mine into 24 pieces because I wanted smaller crackers). Gently rub each piece with a bit of olive oil, shape into a small ball and place on a plate. Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have one, which I do not, you can insert a pizza stone to heat up.

When the dough is done resting, flatten one ball of dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin (or pasta machine), shape into a flat strip of dough. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into the size and shape of crackers you want. Pull each cracker a little thinner by hand (like you might pull pizza dough). Set the pieces of dough on a floured backing sheet, poke each cracker with a fork to prevent puffing, sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Using your fingers, gently pat down the toppings so they stick to the crackers. Otherwise, I found that they just fell off when removed from the oven.

Bake in small batches until deeply golden. For me this was about 8-10 minutes. Keep your eye on them because once they start to go from deeply golden to brown, they burn quickly. Cool on a rack. Let them cool completely before eating or storing. They will get crispier as they cool.

Repeat the process for the remaining balls of dough. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ski Season 2013-2014

View out the back window.

While we were hiking in Moab, the ski resort opened on Thanksgiving this year! Which is HUGE. Fingers crossed for a lot of snow this winter. If what we've gotten so far is any indication, we are in for a real treat this year!

Andrew has already had two awesome powder days this season, but tomorrow will be my first day on the mountain. Tonight I feel nervous excitement. I'm always nervous before the first day of ski season. I think it's a combination of hoping I remember all of my skills from last year and not feeling too rusty and some residual feelings of anxiety from all of those years when I found skiing to be terrifying.

I'm excited for the new season, being outside in the fresh air, the amazing views from the mountain, challenging myself in new ways, continuing to improve and seeing how much better I'll get this season. I'm also excited because skiing is SO.MUCH.FUN. The feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that I feel after a difficult run, the adreneline, the wind rushing past my face, the sound of my skis swooshing on the groomers, the singing and joking on the chair lift, the absolute pure joy of a powder day. It's going to be an awesome winter!

This is my fourth year of skiing. I've been working diligently to build my skills with a solid foundation toward the goal of becoming a really good skier. For me that means being comfortable on all the runs on the mountain and being confident, in control and precise while doing it.

I spent my first year taking a couple of lessons and practicing as much as possible. When I started, I had been skiing a few times before but I had never had any instruction. Unlike some people, I didn't find that skiing was intuitive so I really had no clue what I was doing. The lessons helped me feel comfortable with the basics, and my instructors gave me enough guidance to practice on my own every weekend. Non-skiers often remark to me that they are scared to ski or would feel out of control. This has definitely not been my experience. If you feel this way, do yourself and everyone on the mountain a favor and take a lesson. My instructors helped me know how to maintain control and realistically assess my own abilities so I didn't end up on a run that was out of my league. They also taught me defensive strategies just in case I did find myself on a difficult run.

My goals for this year are to improve on the moguls and link together lots of turns without having to slow down or stop and to ski more tree runs. The trees are the most fun! I honestly can't believe how far I've come in the last few years. Unlike past years when I couldn't visualize myself skiing the runs I wanted to, this year, I feel really confident that I will meet my goals.

And just because I think it's tons of fun to look back on how far I've come, here is a recap of my skiing journey showing just how far I've come in the past two years.

2011-2012 Season
Our first therapy session on the slopes
Take two(!) and starting to exercise my courage muscles
The pay off
Learning to take it all in stride - there will be good days and bad days
My new obsession: going for it
Proud of myself

2012-2013 Season
Visualizing success
I was so lucky to take the women's ski lessons last year. We met every Wednesday for three hours for eight weeks. I learned so much, and by the end of the season I was feeling comfortable in the trees.

Can't wait to see what the 2013-2014 season brings!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving Scenes 2013: Moab and Taos

We spent a long Thanksgiving weekend in Moab with my best friend, Ellie, and Andrew’s dad and brother.

This is the first holiday in a long time that I haven’t returned feeling crummy - stuffed and lethargic from eating and sitting too much. We did our fair share of eating and indulging, but days spent hiking in the red rocks and climbing up and down slickrock rejuvenated me in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time. We also laughed so hard and danced so much.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success. The food was fabulous, and among the new recipes I made this year, the biggest hits were a chocolate tart with a gingersnap crust, a fig and gorgonzola terrine with olive oil crackers, the Parker House rolls and herb and cheese poppers, and the mango chutney. I’ll post recipes later this week once I’ve regrouped and settled into December.

I’ve mentioned before - Southern Utah is my favorite. It makes my heart sing and my body feel good. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and despite all the tourists who visit, you can really get away from most of them and feel alone in the desert. It’s an our people place with a little bit of Mesa spirit thrown in, although being in Utah means things are much more orderly and clean cut!

Visiting Moab in the winter was different than my other trips. The desert has a different smell this time of year. The ground was moist from the snow and the slick rock was sandy and slippery. My clothes and shoes got plenty dirty hiking, but I missed the red sand on my feet and legs. It feels so good to feel the dirty, red grit of Southern Utah on my skin. I love it.

We usually hike on the BLM land since dogs aren’t allowed on the trails in the Parks, but we left the dog girls at home and focused on hiking in National Parks. We did some new trails and some old ones, ate leftover turkey sandwiches with brie and mango chutney (homemade this year, of course) and took lots of photos. Andrew isn’t really a photo shoot kind of guy, but luckily my brother in law and Ellie love the photo shoot just as much as me!

During our long hikes, we caught up, told stories, pondered our spirit animals and spirit divas (prairie dog and Katy Perry for me; desert tortoise and the Swedish Chef from the Muppets for Andrew; river otter and Shakira for my brother-in-law…).

Andrew grew up in Salt Lake and spent his childhood coming to Moab for vacations and birthday trips. It has, of course, changed quite a bit in the last 30 years, and campsites and hikes that were once special secrets now require permits and planning ahead. I think it is a little bittersweet to come back to a place you knew as a child and see that it has changed so much, but nonetheless, I think everyone had a fabulous time.

We left Moab Sunday afternoon with plans to return ASAP as soon as ski season is over. We headed over through Colorado down into New Mexico. We crossed over the Brazos in the fog and headed south to Taos where we had clear skies and sun for the first time in a week. I had missed our big open sunny skies that I’ve come to count on in New Mexico. I’ve been thinking about leaving New Mexico lately. Dreaming big about moving abroad or to the sea, and as we drove south from Tres Piedras toward Taos with the Sangre de Cristos flanking the landscape and the red sky from the setting sun and Three Peaks coming into view, I just couldn’t possibly imagine us making a real home anywhere else. This landscape feels so much a part of me and us and our family. I love the red rocks, but once I saw the scraggly sage brush and P & J and crooked fence lines and broken down old trucks, I was happy to be home.

Despite my worrying about the cabin ever since the incident, the house was fine. We looked for bobcat tracks and trudged through the snow on the Good Morning World Walk and admired the clear skies and bright stars. As I sat by the fire, I fantasized about being able to spend a year at the cabin. Some dreams never die...  Some day.

For now, here are some scenes from Thanksgiving 2013:

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