Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I hosted brunch at my house last weekend and used the opportunity to tick off some of the pins on my "Breakfast for Every Meal" Pinterest board.  Number one on my list was to make monkey bread because friends have raved about it - both for its taste and for its simplicity.  Rather than making a whole loaf, I thought it would be fun to make individual servings. There are tons of recipes out there for this, even "skinny" versions, and I decided to go with the one direct from Pillsbury (not skinny!).


1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cans (7.5 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated biscuits

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Prepare muffin cup pan with nonstick cooking spray
3. Mix butter and brown sugar together well and spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each muffin cup (save some if you can because I learned that the half that baked on top got a little dry, so pour all leftover butter/sugar syrup on the top before baking, or make extra syrup for this purpose)
4. Mix granulated sugar and cinnamon in a bag or bowl.  Cut biscuits into 6-8 pieces, then cover in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Place enough pieces in the muffin cup to fill it
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown
6. Cool 1 minute then turn upside down.  Serve warm

This Glazed Donut Muffin recipe comes from Sweet Pea's Kitchen.  If you're expecting a real glazed donut-y taste, you may be disappointed because this is much more of a muffin with cinnamon and nutmeg spices than a puffy, cake donut flavor.  I actually found myself wishing that I had a nice cinnamon muffin top to eat, since that is usually my favorite part of a muffin like this.  But the buttery glaze was a nice alternative.


For the muffins:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

For the glaze:
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp hot water

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray
2. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat together softened butter, vegetable oil, and sugars until creamy
3. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat mixture
4. On low speed, add baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla until just combined, making sure not to overmix
5. Alternate between the flour and the milk, starting and finishing with the flour, until just combined - again don't overmix
6. Fill muffin cups with the batter and smooth tops
7. Bake until muffin tops are a pale golden color and springy - about 15-17 minutes.  Rotate halfway through the baking time for even baking
8. Cool muffins in the pan for up to 5 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before glazing
9. Prepare the glaze by whisking the ingredients together in a bowl until they are smooth
10. Dip the muffin tops into the glaze and let drip, upside down, until lightly covered
11. Allow to harden, then consider dipping a 2nd time if desired

These muffins can be made a day in advance of a brunch.

Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 by Julie

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Look on your counter...are there brown bananas on it?  Good!  Time to make Banana Nut Bread!  I'm very weird about bananas, and if they have any brown spots on them at all, I don't want to eat them.  So, when I see one spot, I know it's time to check the pantry to make sure I have some walnuts.  Here's my mom's recipe for Banana Nut Bread that is amazing!

1/3 cup shortening or butter (my mom swears half of each makes a tastier bread)
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (approx. 3 medium sized bananas)
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cream shortening (or butter or mix of both) and sugar together in a stand mixer
3. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until light yellow and fluffy
4. Add bananas and mix well
5. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to the wet mixture a little at a time, beating well.
6. Stir in nuts
7. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes (or less if you're using a dark nonstick pan)

The smell of this bread baking is mouthwatering....and eating the bread just slightly cooled out of the oven is unbeatable.  Enjoy!

Posted on Sunday, January 27, 2013 by Julie

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Next weekend is the big Superbowl game, and while I'm not a huge football fan, I do embrace the spirit of the day and enjoy all of the smörgåsbord of food and desserts that accompany it.  So to give you an idea of something to consider bringing to the Superbowl party you're planning to attend, here's a football-themed cupcake of the month, inspired by Hello Cupcake.
Inspiration Photo
The football truffles are made by taking 1 package of Oreo cookies, putting them in a food processor until they are completely crushed, then adding 1 8oz. package of softened cream cheese to the crumbs and pulsing until it forms a dough.  With the dough, you can start by forming a ball (1/2-1 inch depending on the size of football you want) then pressing down and shaping the dough into a football shape.  Freeze for at least 30 minutes.  To do the outside, I melted 1 bag of Wilton Light Cocoa Candy Melts, dunked the footballs in the melted chocolate, then let them drip dry on a rack.  For the laces, I used Wilton White Candy Melts that I melted in the microwave inside a disposable piping bag.  I should have used a tip on the bag to make neater lines, but I opted for the simplicity of just snipping off the end.

The cupcakes are a box mix and the frosting is from a prepared can mixed with green food coloring gel.  Super easy!

Posted on Saturday, January 26, 2013 by Julie

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's that time of year again - time to head to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival.  This year was my third time visiting the festival, and unlike last year, we were there for the more exciting first weekend of the two week event.  Our plans were simple:  ski during the day, hang out in Park City at night.  There were tons of festival-related, sponsored hot spots to check out this year.  Most are exclusive to credentialed festivalgoers, so while denied entry, they were not bad spots to be if you want to do some celebrity sightings.

  • Village at the Lift (825 Main St): UGG Australia tent with the official portrait spot for Getty/WireImage.  There was also the Stella Artois tent where it looked like they were serving food and drinks.  Since this is also the bottom of the Town Lift at Park City Mountain Resort, many skiers and boarders are also meandering around (like us!).
  • Tao (below Village at the Lift):  This Las Vegas nightclub set up a satellite venue for the festival to host private parties.  
  • Nintendo Lounge (738 Main St.): A spot to escape the cold and try out the new Wii U and Nintendo 3DS XL on comfy couches.  
  • Nikki Beach Private Lounge (201 Heber St.):  This Miami favorite is a Sundance newbie in 2013, acting as a pop-up venue on the indoor-outdoor rooftop patio at The Sky Lodge Hotel for private parties.
  • Miami Lounge (625 Main St.): Celebrity swag spot
  • Karl Feinstein Style Lounge (444 Main St.): Celebrity swag spot
  • TR Suites Gifting and Style Lounge (136 Heber St.): Celebrity swag spot
  • Chase Sapphire on Main (692 Main St.): Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres courtesy of Chase, plus a gallery with memorabilia from past festival films.  Also a venue for VIP parties.
  • The Everest Mansion (private):  This was a new spot for VIP parties
  • HP Live Tent (6th and Main St. corner): Free drinks and wifi to help festivalgoers relax
  • Park City Live (427 Main St.): Daily concerts with big name artists - get tickets early!
  • Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe (751 Main St.): Panels and live performances
  • Fender Music Lodge (courtyard behind Prime Steakhouse 804 Main St.)
So, think it's going to be hard to spot celebrities because of all the restricted access at a lot of these venues?  After skiing on Day 2, my friend and I just sat outside of Doolans on Main St. for some après-ski beverages and the TV, film, and music stars came to us!  We found a lot of the people who walked by to be very friendly, especially the comedians/comic actors who aren't very big in the industry.  In addition to those celebrity photos, some of the photos below were taken at the airport on my way back to D.C.  With the Presidential Inauguration being held the next day, my flight had several aging rock musicians who were scheduled to play at the Inaugural Green Ball for the National Wildlife Fund on Sunday night.  I guess they are a kind of all-star band called Camp Freddy that includes occasional guest singers/musicians like Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath.  I was talking to the bass player on the way to baggage claim and couldn't keep up with the names he was rattling off and their respective musical resumes.  
Pictured: Keri Russell, Jimmi Simpson, Bret McKenzie
Pictured (clockwise): Tim Daly, Dermot Mulroney, Donovan Leitch and Mark McGrath, Michael Cera, Lil Jon
Pictured (clockwise): Jennifer Coolidge, Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Steven R. McQueen (Vampire Diaries), Michael Rosenbaum, Corey Feldman, Steve Stevens (w/Josie Stevens, guitarist for Billy Idol but also wrote Top Gun theme!)
No photos:
Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jane Seymour, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (writers of The Way Way Back), Allison Brie (Community, Mad Men), Matt Sorum (Guns N Roses drummer), Billy Morrison (guitarist, Camp Freddy/Billy Idol)

Of course, when in Sundance, it's always nice to catch a film or a few films.  Unfortunately, we got into the ticket game a little late and ended up with tickets to only one movie.  When the time came to decide on whether or not to go see it, one quick read of the synopsis, and we opted to stay at the bar. The main character shot himself up with embalming fluid!!  Gross!  I wrote a little about the ticket process in last year's post, if you're interested.

Of course, one cannot go to Park City without taking advantage of their top notch ski resorts. This year, we decided to go to The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort (or PCMR for "cool" people).  There are sponsored Sundance activities on the mountains as well, including The Burton Experience at the Canyons and the Oakley Learn to Ride area at PCMR.

The Canyons is a nice resort geared more towards the advanced skier.  Had there been more powder or even several inches of fresh snow, several of the blue runs would have felt like actual blue runs instead of green beginner runs.  The resort spans so much of the mountain that it seems impossible to be able to do all of the runs available.  Perhaps because it was a Friday and perhaps because it is not as convenient as Park City and Deer Valley to the main set of accommodations in the city, the resort felt empty - which was great because you could make your way down the slope carefree and didn't have to spend time in long lift lines.
Park City Mountain Resort is the most popular resort for Sundancers and locals alike.  During the film festival, the slopes are more crowded because the regular ski team practices (youth, teen, and college) don't pause for the two weeks and it's situated so close to downtown Park City, with the one lift actually beginning right off of Main Street.  But the resort is so big, the crowds, while bigger, are still not too intense.

Best part of the day at PCMR: riding the same lift chair as three superheros...and a hot dog.  It was quite an interesting conversation we had on the way up!  Speaking of chair conversations, I also loved speaking french with some snowboarders from France who were in town to present their creative installation at the festivals New Frontiers exhibit. They were very nice to indulge me and my seriously out of practice language skills.  That's one thing I love about skiing - everyone is so friendly.  It's like SCUBA diving, where you have this shared interest and there's an accepted camaraderie about the experience - it's all about the adventure of skiing and the rest of life is forgotten for a bit.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), I can't give a good recommendation for lodging since I stayed with a friend.  All of the rooms rates are jacked up for the festival and sell out early.  If money were no object, I would love to stay at the St. Regis or Montage in Deer Valley.  That or rent a house.

Helpful hint - make your reservations early for any restaurant on Main St.  All of the good restaurants are booked, so the leftovers that are available on Open Table are the mediocre establishments.  This year, Morningstar (manufacturer of vegetarian frozen foods) took over a restaurant to install a temporary food joint where they were giving away various veggie burger concoctions - yes, it was all free.  Even non-alcoholic drinks!  I was a little irked because they were not serving my favorite Morningstar item: veggie corn dogs.  Since, we were lazy and did not make reservations until the week of the festival, we ended up on Friday night at Ciceros on Main Street for some average Italian food.  On Saturday, we opted to not fight the crowds and pay the steep prices for parking on Main St., especially after having spent a couple hours there after skiing that day.  Instead, we decided to get a nice meal at one of the restaurants of the 5-star hotels outside of Park City, selecting the Apex Restaurant at The Montage in Deer Valley.  The food was outrageously priced for what you got, as can be expected from a restaurant located in a luxury hotel like this, but for the most part it tasted good.  I had a tomato soup and cheese panini appetizer, salmon main course, and shared a dessert sampler with my friend.  The drive up to the hotel was amazing, lit by dozens of evergreen trees wrapped in white lights.

Expect a few things when it comes to nightlife in Park City:  (1) if you don't get in the bar early you will have to wait in line, in the cold; (2) cover charges are almost guaranteed after a certain time; and, (3) there is little chance you will see a top name celebrity in the bar.  We were lucky the first time we went and saw some TV actors.  Nobody this round.  Here is a list of some of the popular bars for nighttime entertainment (and people watching):

No Name Saloon
The Spur
Wasatch Brew Pub

Remember you are in Utah, so alcohol is tightly regulated.  If you're a beer person, don't order off the tap because it is very likely to be a low 3.2% alcohol content.  Park City's own Wasatch Brewery distributes bottled beer at the local bars, in addition to pouring it at their brewpub.  I found that I really liked their Devastator Double Bock amber ale (8%).

Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 by Julie

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Monday, January 14, 2013

There are two things about gloomy winter days.  One, they make you just want to hang about and be lazy, so cooking sometimes is not a top priority; and two, when you do eat something, it's nice when it's warm and cozy.  Nothing is easier than making a soup, especially in a crock pot, to satisfy that craving.  Here are three of my favorite soups.  The Chicken Tortilla soup is one that is a go-to soup.  It comes out delicious and the chicken is so incredibly tender, even when dropped in frozen with all the other ingredients, that it shreds very easily during the final step of the preparation.  The Moroccan Red Lentil recipe is one that I searched for to replicate a soup I always get at a lunch place in Washington D.C. whenever I'm in the city for work.  Lentils are such a nutritious food, full of iron and protein, plus this soup is typically diet/vegan/gluten-free friendly.  Finally, I've been making my Roasted Cumin Butternut Squash soup for years, and it's quite popular.  It's a great soup on its own or as a starter for a fall or winter dinner party.  All of these soups are super simple to make and low mess too!

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 packet mild taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups water
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups skim milk
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
Salt to taste

In crock pot, whisk the taco seasoning packet with the water and tomato sauce. Add cream of chicken soup and milk and continue whisking until smooth. Pour drained black beans, drained corn and diced tomatoes into the crock pot and carefully drip chicken breasts into the soup.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  When done and before serving, take out chicken and shred using two forks, then combine back into the soup.  Can be serve with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, lime, or tortilla chips.  I opted to make some tortilla trips by slicing narrow strips of flour tortillas and cutting them into 2-3 inch rectangles.  I sprayed them with cooking spray (Pam) and seasoned with sprinkled kosher salt.  They were then baked in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes, until lightly brown.  This recipe makes a lot of soup!  I had 6 tupperware bowls filled to the brim, and that was after taking out some soup for dinner that night.

Moroccan Red Lentil Soup (from Healthy Green Kitchen)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery ribs, chopped
2 14oz (or 1 28 oz) can of diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 cups red lentils, rinsed, picked over, and drained
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground ginger
Salt to taste

Dump all the ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low 7-8 hours.  Can it get any easier?

The recipe also calls for a garnish with harissa, which can be store bought or made using the recipe given.  I'm not a spicy girl, so I just added a little salt to boost the flavor.

Roasted Cumin Butternut Squash Soup

OK, this is going to be the crudest recipe because I'm not really exact when I make this and I'm just pulling it out of my head right now.  I know I have the original recipe somewhere, but I'm being lazy.

1 butternut squash
1 box reduced sodium chicken stock
2 large onions, quartered
Ground cumin
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise.  Often it's easier to cut the bulb off first, then cut that and the long stem in half.  Rub the inside of the squash with olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper.  Place face up on a baking sheet (hint: cover the sheet in foil for easier clean up).  Quarter the onions and also place them on the baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes until the squash is tender.  Take out of the oven and let cool before trying to scoop out the squash.

Prepare your blender.  Place some of the cooled squash in the blender with an equal proportion of onion.  Add some chicken stock (I know this is rough measuring moves right now) to start with some liquid.  Keep the top pour hole in the blender lid open and start to blend the squash, onions, and stock.  Continue to add stock until you see the blended liquid "whirlpool," or blend smoothly without getting stuck creating a spiraling hole in the center.  At this point, add about 1/4 tsp of cumin and blend in.  Add more squash, onion, and start to blend adding the chicken stock and cumin like before.  At this point, you'll probably have enough to pour into a pot to heat the soup on the stove.  Repeat this process until all of the ingredients have been blended and added to the stovetop pot.  Add more salt, cumin, and pepper based on your seasoning preferences as you bring the soup back up to serving temperature.  I love that, when blended, this soup is a beautiful yellow-orange color with flecks of brown from the onion edges.  It looks really earthy and organic.

Posted on Monday, January 14, 2013 by Julie

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Another installment of my "Reducing the Reading Pile" series - and I still don't feel like I've even made a dent.  Probably because these were all eBooks.  I need to grab a real book for the next round! Anyway, I know I just posted about recent readings, but that was a long overdue post, and this one is legitimately what I've been reading these past few weeks over the holidays.

By the way, I notice that a lot of covers claim to be a New York Times or National Bestsellers.  What are the qualifications for this?  Does every book get to be labeled a best seller?  It seems like it.  I know the "skip this" book in this post certainly should not be selling at all!

Must Read

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This is a story of Victoria, a girl who never had anything and grew up as product of the foster system, yet still found her way to a overcome everything after the foster system tossed her out on her 18th birthday.  She managed to win in the end, driven by her all-consuming passion for flowers and their meaning, originally taught to her by the one foster mom in 18 years who actually cared about her but, tragically, was taken from her too soon.  Her influence drove Victoria to continue to learn and develop her innate ability to understand flowers, and through that, to understand others and herself (though not always at first, and often after a long struggle).

Lazy Weekend

Love in a Nutshell and The Husband List by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelley

Yes, I know, I love Janet Evanovich books!

Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner

I struggled with this one because it was overloaded with descriptions, good detailed descriptions -mind you - but not often necessary, of Paris in the late 19th century during the 1889 World's Fair and a fictional serial killer attacking visitors with "killer bee stings."  The fact that I didn't figure out who did it until right before it was revealed, and it was still just a guess, forces me to say that this is definitely a successful mystery novel (and moved it from the "skip this" to "lazy weekend" category).

Emperor's Conspiracy by Michelle Diener

Diverging somewhat from the traditional historical fiction novel set in the Victorian age, this book's heroine is not a daughter of landed gentry or an aristocrat but rather an orphan from the slums who had the luck to find a rich patron to take her in as a child.  The story is centered around finding the source of a gold smuggling scheme that could ruin England.  Very easy reading (less than 24 hrs).

Skip This

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This book was recommended by someone, and I have no inkling of a possible reason why.  The characters were pointless, the chapters jumped all over the place, there was no cohiesive story.  They say that the key to a successful novel is the development of solid and believable relationships.  By writing such a fragmented novel, even though the characters were supposed to be somewhat interrelated, you never got a chance or found a reason to invest in any of the characters and could care less about their growing misfortunes.

Posted on Thursday, January 10, 2013 by Julie

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Sunday, January 6, 2013

With the return of BBC's award winning Downton Abbey tonight for Season 3 (in the U.S.), I thought I'd highlight five things I'm loving right now (and may have bought one or two) that showcase a modern take on the amazing fashions worn in the show.  If you want a little more information on the clothing and accessories of the era, I found this page to be interesting.

1. Anthropologie Accordion Midi Dress - Get dressed for dinner just like Mary Crawley.  Add a pair of elbow length gloves in nude or black and a long beaded necklace for the complete look.  I love this dress!
2. Hats, hats and more hats!  I declare 2013 to be the year of the hat!
Nordstrom Sheared Bow Cloche
Juicy Couture Straw Bowler
Betmar Golden Glow Cloche Hat
Scala Stacy
3. Since Season 3 is set in the 1920s, the dresses are shorter and more flirty!  After the war, the ankle appeared in fashion, and it was all downhill from there...
Nordstrom Pisarro Nights Beaded Mesh Gown
BHLDN Garçonne Dress
Sabine Boudoir Sequin Embellished Dress
4. Get just a hint of Downton in your outfit - these designs by Sabine really hit the mark!
Sabine Boudoir Sequin Cami
Sabine Art Deco Sequin Cami
Sabine Chiffon Beaded Mini Skirt
5. After you put on your gloves, you must add your jeweled accessories...
Nadari "Art Deco" Station Necklace
Mata Hari Jewelry Etsy Shop

Posted on Sunday, January 06, 2013 by Julie

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Friday, January 4, 2013

I can say this for certain, had I not learned how to ski when I was a kid, I don't think I would pick up the sport as an adult. There's no denying that it can be very expensive if you're an infrequent skier and can't rationalize the more economical season pass, with single day tickets starting in the $60 range and going upwards to $100.  Then there's the gear, which can be $30 or more to rent for a day or maybe around $1000 to buy it all new - boots, skis, poles, jacket, hat, socks, gloves, etc.  If you're going to buy just one thing, it must be boots.  There is nothing worse than a bad fitting pair of boots, and I can't tell you how many times my day has been shortened because of boot issues.  This year, I finally decided to buy gear after renting for a long time because I knew I was going to ski at least 5 times.  And gear lasts a long time!  On top of the expense is the cold and less than ideal weather that can settle in on your day and mess with visibility and safety.  Having said all that, I do appreciate that I have skiing in my arsenal of skills because trips to the slopes can be really fun, the other skiers are friendly and there's always the apres-ski crowd!
My first ski outings of the year happened while out visiting family in Seattle for the holidays.  Hauling my gear out west was not as hard as I had expected, and being able to skip the rental line at the resort made a big difference.  Skiing on Christmas Eve can be hit or miss - you may have quiet slope or, in our case, you may have an unexpected surge of people with a lower staffing level.  But in Seattle, you need to take advantage of any opportunities the weather gives you for dry skiing.  This is what is considered partly sunny (photo below)...
For the first day of skiing, we opted to visit the Summit at Snoqualmie, about an hour from downtown Seattle.  Only the Summit Central mountain resort was open for the holiday, and on a limited hours schedule.  In addition, several of the lifts were closed, so we found the lines were unnecessarily long.  The skiing was all packed powder and the runs were disappointingly short compared to other ski resorts in the Northwest.  I'm not really sure if the $60 was worth it that day, especially considering that normally you would have access to Summit East and Summit West slopes, as well as the more challenging Alpental across I-90.
We encountered a fun surprise on one run, as we were passed by a family of five dressed in different Christmas outfits - Santa, Mrs. Claus, Gingerbread Man, Christmas Tree, and a little kid dressed as the Grinch.  The people on the lift were yelling down, "Run, run as fast as you can; You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man."  I made it my mission for the day to get a photo of the family, and failed on the first two attempts until finally seeing them in line for the lift behind us, well three out of the five.
Ahead of us in line...
Already on the lift...
Got them!
Our second ski trip was north of Snoqualmie at Stevens Pass, and if I were to come back, this would be the first place I would go.  Conveniently located about an hour and a half from Seattle, the facilities at Stevens Pass were much more advanced (RFID ticket system) and the staff was able to run the resort much more efficiently.  Unfortunately, the location of the ski area often presents an access challenge when it is snowing, as the Washington Department of Transportation quickly closes the pass because of its history of snow/ice related accidents.  We happened to choose an absolutely gorgeous day to go, though.
I suspect because of their flex ticketing system, where you are not limited to a strict timeframe but rather you can ski either 4 or 8 hours starting whenever you take your first lift ride, people feel less pressured to arrive early to be there when the resort opens.  I would encourage early arrival, though, because parking was a lot easier and lines were shorter.  Right in front  of the base area are two convenient high-speed quads that will take you up to most of the runs on the Stevens Pass side of the mountain.  Access to Mill Valley slopes on the other side is not difficult, with two upper lifts that will take you to the ridge line.  The views from the top of the lifts were amazing because there was a blanket of fog that had settled right in the valley so that you could still see the snow covered peaks of Cascade Mountains.
One of the bonuses of Stevens Pass is their app for the iPhone.  You can access current statuses for weather, lifts, and runs as well as get trail maps.
The best feature of the app is the GPS tracking. We turned it on for part of our afternoon session to see what it would produce, and it actually showed a map of all of the runs we took and the exact positions, including our little mishap on Gemini where we got stuck in some deep powder and my apparent love of the off-piste jumps on Brennan's Trail. Apparently, I am a solid intermediate skier - no black diamonds for me that day! You can also see your stats:  vertical drop and average speed for each run, total runs for the tracking period, and combined run stats. I wish more ski resorts had this technology feature!  It was fun!

I also tried out my GoPro camera this trip to see what kind of action I could capture (and if it was worth keeping). I originally bought the camera to take a video of my indy car drive last summer, but the company would not allow it for liability reasons. So this was actually the first time I was using it in action. A guy sharing a lift ride with us said he was disappointed with the movies he made that were taken with a head-mounted camera.  And I have to say, it's not great footage for anyone with a queasy stomach when it comes to motion.  Perhaps a chest mounted camera would be better, but would still cause a lot of motion (think Blair Witch Project!).  Of course the footage of me skiing down a blue run without much in the way of obstacles is not exactly riveting material! Hmmm....I think I've got another item to add to my list to put on Craig's List.

Posted on Friday, January 04, 2013 by Julie

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