14 February 2010

Walking on (frozen) water

Mom's in town this weekend, and she has never been snowshoeing.  Perfect opportunity to drive her up the windy road to Bogus and show her what Idaho snow is all about.  :-)

Off to a good start.  Look at that pristine snow!

About a mile in.  What's that in your hand, Mom?  A phone?!  We aren't THAT lost...

About two miles in.  Oh happy day.  We actually *were* pretty lost... still on a trail, but not on the one we wanted, and headed in the wrong (read: would have taken us several hours to get back to the lodge) direction.  Thanks to some help from a guy with a Bogus jacket on and some trail-ditching on our part, we crossed a little ravine to get to the trail I knew - Streamside (in red).  Off we go.

I missed the opportunity to take pictures of mom sliding down the steepest hill (it was really fun! Like our own tube hill... only without tubes), but here's what the other side looked like.  This is where poles and the crampons on the bottom of your snowshoe really come in handy.

Finally nearing the lodge.  We had been out for over three hours, and it was starting to snow.  It was pretty, but I'm glad it didn't snow a lot while we were out in the back acres.  See the mountains in the distance?

At the top of the trail.

And then suddenly, sunshine!  A great end to a fun and adventurous afternoon.


Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  Every year, I have grand ideas of cards and things I want to send out to my friends, but somehow I run out of time.  Every year.  Imagine that!  However, this year, I did get to make some Valentine-y decorations because my mom was here to help me.  She's in town for a few days and since she's the craftiest person I know, I recruited her to help me transform construction paper and staples into something pretty for my door.
Chocolate, tea, and company constitute a good Valentine-making session.

I live in an old building (built in 1908) that used to be full of offices.  Most of the apartments still have the original tile and wood floors and the old windows with wavy glass.  It's fun to think about who may have used my apartment before me.  I picture men from the 1940's sitting behind their desks in full suits smoking cigars.  The secretary sits over by the front door and waits for the mail to be delivered.  Lucky for me, those cute little mail slots are still there!  I have my own, which the property manager still uses to distribute notices and parking tags.  It's a perfect display area for some red hearts, I think....
The inside of my front door...

and the outside!

And what would Valentine's be without a little (more) chocolate?  Back at Christmas, my parents had given me a calendar that features a new recipe from Gourmet almost every day.  February 14's recipe was for little chocolate-raspberry molten cakes, and hey! I had all the ingredients!  I still had to mess with it, as usual, like swapping out the raspberry preserves for orange marmalade, and decreasing the butter because I had chocolate that had already been mixed with butter (long story).  I also used more chocolate than what it called for, and I made 12 cakes in my muffin pan.  Please excuse the half-gone-ness of the dessert in this picture... they were really good.

Mini Chocolate Molten Cakes
from Gourmet magazine
Serves 6

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 c. unsalted butter, diced
2 Tb. seedless raspberry preserves
4 eggs
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tb. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 325.  Butter 6 ramekins (or a muffin pan).  If using ramekins, remember to place them on a baking sheet before putting them in the oven. 
2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.
3. Stir together the chocolate, butter, and preserves in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat until all the chocolate is melted.  Take of the heat and stir occasionally until it cools off a little.
4.  Slowly whisk the chocolate into the eggs.  Pour batter into cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your baking containers.  Let cool 15 minutes before removing from pan.  Serve with whipped cream.

04 February 2010

Birthday Weekend, Part Deux

We left off with plans to watch Chuck on Monday night (my actual birthday), but it turns out that wasn't all that Meredith had in store for me!  But first....

Dutch tradition states that the birthday person actually gives gifts to their friends and family.  I hadn't heard of this tradition before, but it was an excellent excuse to try out a new cookie recipe on my co-workers!  These are the big kind of chocolate chip cookies, the kind that are crispy on the edges, soft in the middle, and huge.  They were great, especially with walnuts to balance the sweetness.  This recipe made its way into my personal recipe book - it's a keeper!

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

On to Monday night.  Meredith told me she would pick me up at 5:20, and that I should dress "like it's your birthday".  So I pulled out (almost) all the stops. I retrieved the green silk top that I had worn for a semi-formal Christmas party from the closet, capped it off with a black shrug, put on my cutest jeans, and if I could wear heels I would have worn them.  Ballet flats with flower decorations on the toes would have to do.  Sparkly earrings that dangle?  Check.  I straightened my hair, put on eyeshadow for the first time in ages, and doubled up the mascara.  I was ready!  On time!  :-)  Meredith picked me up, and we were off.  Except I did have to run back up to my apartment to grab the library books that were due that day so we could drop them off on our way... wherever we were going.  When I got in the car, Meredith said "Wow you look... cute."  Uh... was that a bit of apprehension in her voice?  "I'm way overdressed aren't I?" I asked her.  "Well... kinda... but no, you look cute!"  heh heh.  Turned out the place we wound up at for dinner (and yes, "wound up at" is the right phrase after all the intentional "oops I got lost" turns that occurred!) was one of my favorite "fresh" Mexican restaurants, and I was totally overdressed - this restaurant it casual.  I mean, the staff don't even come out from behind the counter kind of casual.  But that was A-OK, because... it was my birthday!  And a girl's gotta get dressed up once in a while.  Especially on her birthday.

We hung out at the restaurant and enjoyed our salads (big parenthetical tangent here: Costa Vida is probably the only restaurant I go to where I never order something different on the menu just for variety's sake. I order the same thing every time, which completely speaks for its deliciousness - a fresh handmade tortilla on bottom, then cilantro lime rice, black beans, sweet pork, shredded chicken or shredded beef, lettuce, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, and creamy cilantro ranch... mmm....) for about half an hour, talking about all sorts of things.  Throughout our conversation, I do have to admit that I kept wondering what was coming next. I love surprises, but I get antsy when I know the answer is right around the corner.  Pretty soon we rolled ourselves out to Meredith's car (the salads are huge!) and we were on our way!  She headed into a part of town that was nowhere near the freeway, it was the opposite direction of our friend Stacy's house, and it was definitely not the right way to get to her house.  In fact, it looked like we were headed to church!  I should have known better... she was trying to get me off the trail!  Earlier, our friend Lori had secretly texted Meredith during dinner, saying that she was running late and please stall.  She was on her way to Meredith's house with a special birthday cake.  It's a Julia Child recipe resulting in dense chocolate with ground almonds throughout.  Two of my favorite flavors!
Birthday cake... the piece I got to take home. :-)

Now, if any of you know Meredith, you also know that she has a creature living at her house whom we affectionately (or not so much) call "Devil".  Rather, "Devil Cat".  This demon in fur scares the pants off of me, for good reason - he almost ripped a hole in my jeans by attacking me one time.  Every time I go to Meredith's house, she graciously stows the cat away in another room with the door closed.  So, I was very grateful when we got out of the car at Meredith's apartment to watch her quickly head up the stairs to unlock the door and get DC into his room.  I was more than willing to wait outside her front door while DC was put under lock and key.  Pretty soon, I heard an "Okay!" from inside, and opened the door.  The next few moments were a blur of sticky, wet, what-in-the-world just landed on me??  I was sort of hunched over near the door with my eyes closed, and just when I dared to turn around and look, there it came again!  Ugh!  What IS this stuff?  Ah... wait... high school memories uploading... Silly String!  Gross!!  I turned around to see Stacy and Lori standing behind the half wall by the door, both with cans in their hands.  Traitors!

We got the goo cleaned up just in time to watch Chuck, which had been Meredith's plan all along.  After the show was done (suspense! drama! romance! comedy!), and we were waking from our Chuck-stupors, I opened my birthday presents and we all ate that delicious cake with vanilla ice cream.  What a great birthday.  Thanks so much to Meredith for planning all of it and Stacy and Lori for playing along!

The next two pictures should have you singing "One of these things is not like the other..."

My friends and family are really generous... and they know what I like!  Flowers, chocolate, cookbooks, and pretty cards (and some software that I've been wanting, included for good measure).  I had to show you two pictures because one of the books didn't quiiite make it to my apartment by Monday, and one of the bouqets got relocated to my desk so I could enjoy flowers all week long, even when I'm working!  This was one of the best birthdays I've had, and here's the sappy part where I tell my family and friends that I appreciate their kindness so much.  The Lord has blessed me richly this year through all of you, and I'm so thankful.

Next up on RubyRi: Snowshoeing adventures with Mom!  Stay tuned!