From the Mountaintop to Marriage

18 Jan

I’ve been away too long, again. This time there’s a very, very good reason. I’ve been celebrating all day, every day (and working just enough hours not to starve) for the past two weeks, exactly. On January 4th, 2014, HT and I got engaged!!

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It was just the most love-filled and joyous night of my entire life, so I thought I’d document a bit of it here. Then back on the blogging horse we go!

To start at the beginning, we were supposed to spend New Year’s Eve in Great Barrington, MA. We loved it up there on a previous trip, we wanted a low key but special locale for a fun night together, it seemed appropriate. Then I got sick as a dog for a few days and we had to cancel the whole thing. BUT—luckily the gods were smiling and we were able to reschedule all of our plans for the following Saturday, thus planning a Faux New Year’s Eve. I was instructed by HT to still pack my NYE dress and still get excited, so I did.

We journeyed up to the Berkshires (beautiful in the snow) and after grabbing a coffee in Stockbridge, decided to wander through the Norman Rockwell Museum. It’s so cute and well done, so New Englandy and so Americana…we enjoyed it. I had quite a few favorite Saturday Evening Post covers.

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Later in the day, befitting the day’s events, one in particular became my absolute favorite. Can you guess which?

Plus, despite 6 degree temps, the sun was shining all day.

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We ate pizza (divine) at Baba Louie’s in GB and made our way to the motel/hotel/inn to hang before dinner.

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Then I opened some wine, we enjoyed the sweet, sweet vibe at The Briarcliff Motel.

The second we arrived at the Briarcliff, I was convinced we’d be back. It has such a laid back vibe as a completely renovated, vintage-obsessed hipster-meets-IKEA 60’s motel, owned and operated by the coolest English couple in Great Barrington (Lee, actually). It was super clean, thoughtful, and the continental breakfast was completely homemade, delicious, AND they had beagle pillows in the lobby lounge. Cute. Shot_10AA-560x373

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I left there thinking I want to do the same thing and overhaul an old dusty motel in the Adirondacks, actually.

So we drank wine, we lounged, HT asked the innkeepers to light the beautiful fire bowl outside for us and we layered up (6 degrees, mind you, and the sun is setting) to go enjoy the fire at the foot of Monument Mountain. They brought blankets and hot chocolate. Life was good.

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Then, a magical thing happened. On top of being in a beautiful, charming place, cozy by the fire and happy to be celebrating faux New Year’s Eve, HT got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife!

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Long story short, I have been floating ever since. I didn’t know how this would feel until it happened, and now that it has, it’s truly better than I could have ever imagined—just to know that the person I love most, wants to sign up for a whole, long, lively life with me. It’s the best feeling in the world. The night was a blast, with dinner at Allium and drinks and a funny country band at this awesome hippie bar, the Gypsy Joynt. What a night.

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So now, if you’re like everyone else, you ask when’s the wedding? To which I say, we’re not sure, but start training, ’cause you may have to climb to get there. Will Hike For Fiancee, that’s what I say.

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10 Minute Fudge Pie

29 Dec

If I hadn’t just sworn off sweets for the next few weeks, I’d be making this now.

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With a need for dessert and drool in my mouth, I needed a recipe that wouldn’t add weight to my south. High in protein and all made from scratch, a pie from the heavens would soon be my match. A secret ingredient that was sure to fool all, a fudge like texture to make your knees buckle and fall. Sinful, and decadent, and well worth the wait, Christmas dinner was good, but dessert was like fate. 

The last two and a half weeks I didn’t eat any sugary cookies, candy, or cakes. As crazy as that sounds it wasn’t all that hard, and it was more than worth it for the decadent pie I made for Christmas dessert. This was the easiest pie I have ever made…ever.

I had so much success with my pumpkin pie I knew it was time to try something similar, but with chocolate. This…

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A Lotta Ricotta: Cheese for Breakfast & Dessert

11 Nov

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I rejoined Costco lately, once I discovered they actually have quite a few organic and healthful offerings nowadays. Now, I need to get used to shopping there again, ’cause the last time I was associated with a membership was when I lived in a sorority house with 18 other girls and we went through a case of Light ‘n Fit yogurt in 3 days.

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Times have changed…and HT is a hungry man, but he is not 18 hungry (possibly hungover) sorority girls. So I may have overbought ricotta cheese. Now, my mission is to use it up mindfully before the clock strikes expiration (I hate wasting food). Here’s the plan, ricotta cheese 3 ways:

1) Ricotta Blueberry Muffins (For breakfast and to freeze, and I just bought a huge ‘ol bag of whole wheat pastry flour at Mrs. Greens.)

2) To-Die-For Cannoli Ice Cream (Only two servings, we can’t be trusted with this stuff.) SORRY, no pictures!

PS- The Duchess of Ridgefield is supervising. Apparently I can’t be trusted in the kitchen.

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“Ricottaberry” Muffins

Adapted from The Muffin Myth WW Ricotta Muffins with Cinnamon Roasted Apples

I love muffins, but they’re fattening and carby. So, I look for ways to lighten them up ’cause they really are a great breakfast on the way out the door when you don’t have time to get fancy. Thanks Muffin Myth for the idea, I love that these are whole wheat without being dense, and naturally sweetened with maple syrup. Huge success.

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Prep Time: 10 min

Inactive Prep Time: 25 min

Serves: 12 (10 for me, see below)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (I had only salted butter, so note I omitted salt below)

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted, as I was using salted butter)
1 cup cinnamon roasted apples, or other seasonal fruit (I used frozen organic blueberries)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line muffin tin with liners. My trick here is to use two muffin tins and fill only every other well with muffin batter. I like to over fill the wells and make slightly fewer muffins than an original recipe calls for because I like a muffin with a large top and a slightly bigger size (if it alone, will be called “breakfast”).

In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, ricotta, eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with baking power, baking soda, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mix until just barely combined, then carefully fold in the roasted apples (or blueberries or other seasonal fruit). The muffin mix will be quite thick. (It really is!) Don’t worry, it should be.

Spoon equal amounts of the muffin mix into 12 (or 9-10) muffin cups. Slide into the oven, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating the pan once part way through. Muffins are done when they are puffed and golden, and a toothpick or small knife comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

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“Hardtack’s Cannoli Ice Cream”

Adapted from Giada Ricotta and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream 

Hardtack LOVES cannolis, but as he’s become quite the health-conscious guy, he’s not interested in the full-sugar, full fat version anymore. I am hoping this ice cream satisfies the craving without the calorie commitment of the “real thing”.

Prep Time: 10 min

Inactive Prep Time: 30 min

Serves:
12 (or 6 like Hardtack)

Ingredients:
1 (15-ounce) container (organic) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup whole milk (I used 1% and a splash of organic half and half)
1 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese and milk until smooth. Add the simple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Pour the ricotta mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

As I don’t have an ice cream freezer (boo), here’s where I improvised. I froze the liquid ice cream mixture right in two Magic Bullet blending containers. Then, once fully frozen, I microwaved the containers for about 20 seconds and began to test out blending the mostly-frozen ice cream with a repeated pulsing action on the Magic Bullet. The result was an icy but creamy soft ice cream (eat immediately!) with amazing flavor. Depending how solid your frozen cream has become, you can experiment with adding a tiny bit of skim milk to the frozen mixture instead of microwaving. Also, a regular blender should work too, and a VitaMix, even better. 

Note: this refroze pretty well but microwaving for 15 seconds was required again as it refreezes quite solidly. It’s probably best eaten after the first “blending”. Honestly, the flavor is so good I’m not sure how ours lasted past then, anyway.

Simple syrup:
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar (I subbed 1/2 cup agave here and had total success)
In a saucepan, combine water and sugar (agave) over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar (agave) has dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and allow the syrup to cool.

Try these. Enjoy them!

 

Bra Burning & 90s Gear: Backpacking Mt. Greylock, MA

21 Oct

HT and I agree hands-down, fall is the #1 season of the year. So, we took a little trip up to the Berkshires two weekends back to fit in a backpacking trip before the weather gets colder and our weekends get busier. Leaves, chilly nights and new toasty gear, fires, what’s not to love?

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We’d just picked up the AMC’s Best Backpacking New England book so we started there in deciding on a hike and we landed on the “Have a Grey Day” Mt. Greylock loop. I love how this book titles its hikes like the Abs Diet titles their recipes.

We also just got our hands on a new digital luggage scale (cool!) so we packed up our packs and weighed them for the first time. Yikes. Can you guess how much we carry for ONE NIGHT in the woods? Well first, I was super impressed with my base weight of 14.7lbs. But then, I added water and a few more toiletries. And I’m a BIG hydrator so I don’t skimp. Hello 24 lbs. Sheesh.  HT’s pack was heavier still…I’ll have to ask him to reweigh so I know for sure. To be fair, he carried the tent and a bit of my food…thus the uneven loads. And he’s a gentleman, of course.

So we headed into the woods with our usual gear and some grub left over from the Long Trail stock up (Mary Jane’s Farm Organics, Umpqua oats- now at Costco!) plus a box of those delicious Anna’s super-thin ginger snaps. We started up the mountain mid-day (later than we ‘d hoped) amidst beautiful changing leaves and rolling farm country hills. The trail from the bottom is the Hopper Trail, which meandered for a bit before it started to climb and climb. I was happy to hear HT huffing and puffing as much as I was on some stretches. I stopped him at one point to remind him that I’d been not only out of the hiking groove a little lately but also hadn’t carried a pack since early July. I just wanted to be clear that this hike was not a race. To me, at least.

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The trail was gorgeous. In that area, the leaves had clearly already peaked but enough remained on the trees to make for some spectacular forest views as the sun descended in the sky. There’s also just something so striking about orange and red leaves rimming a flowing creek. I love that kind of imagery.

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Adult Summer Turns to Fall (I’m Back!)

9 Oct

I had a realization sitting in awful traffic yesterday—I haven’t blogged in months and it’s uncool. There are a few reasons why—a big job layoff and subsequent job searching, moving, travel and otherwise awesome business. Excuses aside, here I am, now. 

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This I can say…I had a pretty awesome “adult summer” that is now shaping up to be a pretty awesome fall. What have I done with my (supposed) free time and freedom?

1. Oregon. Yes! The trip I gushed about months and months ago actually happened! I’ll blog in full about it soon because the pics are worth it.

2. Ithaca. Family lakehouse, relaxation, deep breaths and lake swimming. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

3. Indian Lake. Kayak camping on islands with the three important men in my life just as summer began to cool off to make way for autumn. Spectacular. Stay tuned for a post on that too.

4. Cohabitation. That’s right. Hardtack and I (and the Duchess) have officially shacked up. It means better meals for all, a fuller fridge for HT and less living out of a backpack for me. Plus, he cleans the kitchen. So far, so great.

I can’t wait to get back in a routine of sorts this fall and take on some delicious fall recipes, hikes and gear reviews. HT and I have both just gotten our hands on some new gear and I’m stockpiling fallish crockpot recipes so I’ve got plenty to share.

Good to be back. Happy candy corn season to all!!

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East Coast Summer

19 Aug

Back from a brief summer hiatus, I’m now posting from Cape Cod. Mostly, I’d like to share some pics. More to come, I’m back in action!!

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Mud, Sweat & Tears: The Long Trail 2013

12 Jul

It’s been a while!

There are many, many reasons why, but the biggest may be that we’ve been prepping for Hardtack’s Thru Hike of the Long Trail in Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains. I’m happy(ish) to report, he’s deep in the mountains now!

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I’m also happy to report that I successfully completed the first 58 (or so) miles of the trail with him last week, July 2-6..so today’s hike profile will cover my stint as a Long Trail section hiker!

To begin at the beginning…

DAY 1

We started our journey with an early morning run to Stop & Shop to A) dump the change HT had been saving as his Trail Fund in the CoinStar machine; and B) grab some last minute fresh food (wax-coated extra sharp VT cheddar and apples).

Then we drove to Enfield, CT to drop the Duchess off at her country retreat (aka grandmother’s house) for the duration of HT’s hike. HT’s mom graciously drove us to the (rough around the edges) Springfield, MA bus station, where we caught a bus to Williamstown, MA, where the LT (sort of) begins.

We jumped off the bus somewhere near the middle of town and navigated to a coffee shop and hippie sandwich joint based on HT’s memories of the town from traveling through in his hockey coaching days. We packed a sandwich for our first night’s dinner, charged up our phones and walked….2+ miles…to the trailhead (talk about an annoying 2 miles).

Note: The trailhead was not the beginning of the Long Trail, as we were actually still in Massachusetts. We proceeded to hike the Cobble Hill Trail to take us to the Long Trail. We didn’t even BEGIN hiking until 5pm on Tuesday night. Hardcore, right?

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And of course, the SECOND we stepped foot into the woods, the skies opened up and the downpour didn’t stop until we reached the…

Seth Warner Shelter (the first on the LT, NOBO/northbound) where we pitched camp and attempted to dry off before scarfing down sandwiches and passing out.

DAY 2

Next morning, we picked slugs out of our soaking shoes, put our wet trail clothes back on and suited up for another day of anticipated rain. The rain held off but the mud more than made up for it. Continue reading

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