Out Conquering Mountains

Howdy, folks. I’ve missed you. Believe it or not, I haven’t visited my blog at all since last Friday (!). That almost never happens, but we were fortunate enough to be staying at a resort sans (free) wi-fi. And since it was sorta like vacation, I didn’t mind.

Chris, on the other hand, was a little upset at first, but that’s just because he had a little work to do at the beginning. He got used to it, and he spent the ride home from the Oakland airport checking 4 days of Facebook posts. It doesn’t take much for us to “turn off” for a few days, and I’m glad we’re both able to do so, with limited issue.

With almost two weeks of September behind us, we’re now getting ready for a long weekend of visitors from Chicago, which means my time here is limited. But nonetheless, I made time to upload, edit, and post a few pictures for your perusal. While we didn’t rest much (I think we only had one day of sleeping in), we had a blast, and the early mornings were definitely worth it given what we saw and did in return.

We spent the first day riding ATVs through the Western Sedona Valley (word on the street is lots of western movies are filmed here). While the tours were designed for the beginner level ATV-er, it was still a lot of fun, and we arrived back at our resort with a few extra pounds of dirt apiece – in our ears, on our clothes, and in places I never thought would get that dirty from riding through those trails. We didn’t bring our regular cameras, but Susan (my mother-in-law) did bring a little point and shoot, so we were at least able to get a few shots of the Verde Valley, the ATV parade, and a few group shots.

On the way back from the ATV adventure, I spotted what looked like the perfect feat for the next day – Bell Rock. It is a ginormous blob of red rock with really great trails around it and up it. Since there were 6 of us (Chris, me, in-laws, and 2 of their besties, Nancy & Carl), each with differing levels of interest in climbing rocks, it worked out nicely because you could stop closer to the bottom and still see a lot of trail and rock, or you could make the ascent up for spectacular views. Everyone sorta hopped off at different spots, and I’m proud to say I made it up as far as (I think) you can go – to one of the pedestaled areas around the center of the rock. The view was amazing, and it wasn’t too difficult to get up and back down – I highly recommend this if you’re ever in Sedona.

Chris and I also managed to squeeze in a couple of wineries (duh) while the ‘adults’ were golfing. Arizona wine isn’t bad, and the folks at Javelina Leap even let us squash some of the grapes since they just finished the harvest. Good times.

Day three was the earliest of our days because we packed up and headed north to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The first half of the day was perfect, and we made pretty good time getting into the park and to the canyon. The Grand Canyon is one of those sites that you have to see it to really appreciate it. It is utterly breathtaking. The worst part? You have to walk down it first, and the trip up is the hardest. I sorta like to do the upwards part first, then take it easy on the back end, but I didn’t get to choose :(. Nonetheless, we made it down maybe 1/3 of the way (we hadn’t intended to go the full way – it could take all day!) and then we were taunted by Mother Nature, so we scurried back before the bottom fell out.

Anyway, the pictures definitely don’t do it justice, but it truly is amazing. Next time, I’d love to see the North Rim, since it’s apparently higher.

Unfortunately, the rain storms took the rest of the afternoon from us, but we still drove around and looked at another area or so before heading back down to Sedona. That place is pretty even in the rain.

On our final day, we “took it easy” and hiked through the West Fork Oak Creek Trail in Sedona. The trail itself is pretty long, but the main part of it, which we did, is about 6 miles round trip (I think; I’m not so good with the details since we weren’t the ones planning this trip). The walls of the canyon are pretty steep which is neat to look at, and the creek that cuts through the trail is one that gets crossed multiple times. There are a couple of great spots to stop to eat your pre-packed lunch, and plenty of nice, quiet areas where you could practically sit all day to hear the creek, the birds, and the wind flowing through the pine trees.

The down side to that trail, you ask? I’ll tell you – it’s the sign I saw right at the entrance that immediately had me in near panic mode, with flashbacks to last year this time.

Believe you me, the damn trail was heavily peppered with both poisons. I walked with my arms raised for a good portion of the trip, and when I got back to the resort, I swear I washed my arms and legs at least 10 times, hoping if I’d gotten into contact with any poison that I’d have time to wash it away before it penetrated my skin. I’m happy to report that, 2 days later, I am poison-free. I’m giving it another day before I call myself in the clear, but things are looking ok.

As a reward for our hiking efforts over the past few days, we had a huge hot dog at Señor Bob’s, which was finally open (things in Sedona are very “sleepy”, to put it mildly) and a big container of soft serve. Other noteworthy food spots include: the Coffee Pot Restaurant (good, simple Mexican and brunch-type stuff), The Hideaway (American-Italian with cheap, decent wine), and the Barking Frog Grille (pretty darn tasty Southwest Cuisine – I had a jumbo shrimp tamale that was insane.).

And with that, I’m going to have to wrap this thing up. It’s late, I have clothes to fold and meatballs to prepare for dinner tomorrow night, and there’s a bed beckoning me to hop into it.

To the in-laws and the Heides – thanks for a wonderful weekend! xoxo

ps – want more pics? here’s the rest – enjoy!

Better Late Than Never

Man, long weekends really do fly by, don’t they? For those of us with so-called regular 8-5’s, a standard Saturday-Sunday weekend never seems like long enough – no matter how much you like your job. For whatever reason, the few and far between holiday ‘long weekends’ never seem much better, once it’s all said and done.

Except for this weekend – we seemed to cram quite a bit o’ fun into those three days; a tradition I think I can stick to easily, quite honestly.

The weekend started off with a trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market with Chris and my fellow SF transplant via Chicago friend, Judy. While I do adore Chicago’s Green City Market, I have to vote for SF’s markets, hands down, but given the plethora of fresh produce in these parts it’d be hard not to. For starters, I found a stand indoors that specializes in mushrooms and guess what they also brought on the field trip to the market – ramps! Holy hell it took a lot for me to hold it together, but I did – just barely.

Needless to say, ramps were purchased and grilled this weekend. But also! There are fresh oysters at the end of a mere 60-minute line. You don’t get that at most markets, do ya? Probably overpriced, but totally worth it that day.

Saturday ended with an x-box date with Jennifer & Jon (laugh it up, but it is totally awesome), and Sunday was pretty much grill/beer/friends fest. Also, a lot of youtube videos. There was plenty of solid food that will be discussed in a matter of time, but at the forefront of my mind is ice cream.

Oh, right. Saturday also consisted of a trip to The Haight, and Ben & Jerry’s. But that’s not the ice cream that’s on my mind, you see.

It seems I’m grabbing up all of Spring’s produce at the last minute: ramps, strawberries, rhubarb, even fava beans. I figure: better late than never, right? Things stick around a little bit longer out here, and I had to remind myself that even though the produce is more prevalent, it will eventually run out – even here. I got lucky with the ramps, and the rhubarb doesn’t seem to be quite as abundant as I’d expected, either.

Nonetheless, find some I did, and with it I put the ol’ ice cream maker to work for the first time this year. Eating homemade ice cream always leaves me feeling a little bit sheepish, kicking myself in the ass for not making more frozen treats than I do.

Because when your holiday Monday is spent by taking a 2-hour bike trip through the park and to the beach (the beach!) and back, finished off by lounging in the park with a husband, a magazine, and a beer, there’s only one thing that’s missing from that equation, and that’s a pint of fresh, homemade ice cream.

Strawberry-Basil-Rhubarb Ice Cream
adapted from Cooking Light, May 2010; serves 8

time commitment: less than 1 hour for preparing ice cream + at least 8 hours to freeze afterwards

printable version

2 1/2 c reduced fat milk
3/4 c half-and-half
1 handful of fresh basil (~1/2 c)
1 c sugar, divided
3 egg yolks
3 stalks of rhubarb
1/3 c Malbec or other red wine
1 lb fresh chopped strawberries

Combine milk, half-and-half, and basil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat milk mixture to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Combine 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until pale yellow. Remove basil and gradually add half of hot milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour the egg yolk mixture into pan with remaining milk mixture; cook over medium-low heat until a thermometer registers 160° (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 20 minutes or until custard cools completely, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, rhubarb, and wine in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and liquid is syrupy. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Combine rhubarb mixture and strawberries in a blender; process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl, pressing with a wooden spoon; discard solids. Stir rhubarb mixture into custard mixture.

Pour custard into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.