Monthly Archives: August 2015


31 Aug

Pining for Ponderosa

Posted by on August 31, 2015 at 10:25 pm

For the last six years, Jason and I have gone camping every summer with the same group of people. This August, we continued the tradition with an overnight outing at Ponderosa Campground, which is located in Bear Canyon near Nephi. I was the one that suggested we pitch our tents at Ponderosa; I must be a genius or something because Ponderosa was pretty wonderful.

Salt Creek meandered beside our campsite, providing a harmonious flow to our chatter.

Salt Creek meandered beside our campsite, providing a harmonious flow to our chatter.

Ponderosa’s campsites are shaded by a stately grove of Ponderosa Pines that were planted a century ago. Under their protective canopy, the temperatures remain cool enough in the morning for sleeping in late without tent scorch and just chilly enough at night for appreciating a cozy fire. Yup, genius.

Our camping group is usually a little livelier than this.

Our camping group is usually a little livelier than this.

In way of evening entertainment, we gorged ourselves on our customary hotdog and s’mores roast, along with a heaping serving of campfire ghost stories dished out mostly by Drew and me. Our longest tale involved Stinky Joe, cacti monsters, zombies, kitty cats, logs and mummies, AKA a bunch of incongruent elements requested by the children. We had a flavorful and colorful night.

This Hunny Tree sure was sweet.

This Hunny Tree sure was sweet.

Before we came home the next day, we checked out a couple of close curiosities. A section of the forest adjacent to Ponderosa has lovingly been converted into Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. Over the years, visitors have added items and built houses for Piglet, Christopher Robin and the rest of the Pooh characters amongst the pines. The Wood was quite darling and popular with both the kids and adults in our group.

Eeyore is probably my favorite Pooh character so I was happy to pay him a visit.

Eeyore is probably my favorite Pooh character so I was happy to pay him a visit.

We also took a short hike to a nearby onyx quarry. Although some of the younger children complained through the entire trek about having to use their legs for moving, clearly a function those limbs were never designed for, their grievances were forgotten once we reached the quarry and an all-hands hunt began for the coolest pieces of Bacon Onyx hidden amongst the rock rubble. (Naturally, some ice cream bribery was involved.)

Mount Nebo, at 11,928 feet, was an imposing backdrop.

Mount Nebo, at 11,928 feet, was an imposing backdrop.

Our convoy decided to return home via the Nebo Loop Scenic Byway, a genius idea that I can’t take credit for. We ate a snack in the Devil’s Kitchen, a peculiar cluster of red conglomerate stone reminiscent of Bryce Canyon, and gawped at Mount Nebo’s geological magnificence.

Ponderosa was a satisfying continuation of our camping ritual. There were s’mores, shade, stones and Pooh aplenty. And what’s a camping trip without Pooh?

24 Aug

Arrowhead Alfresco

Posted by on August 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Last Valentine’s Day, I gave Jason a year’s worth of quality time in monthly installments. I’ll get more into the details of that on another occasion but, for now, I’m just going to cover our most recent quality outing.

I do a lot of photo experimentation these days; that dot on the fence is Jason.

I do a lot of photo experimentation these days; that dot on the fence is Jason.

My scheme for August was a picnic at Arrowhead Summit, which is located at the top of Sundance Resort. Up on that 8,250-foot ridge, the Heber and Utah Valleys sprawled on either side of us like sleepy companions while a grassy spot in the shade served as our living table.

We found the perfect grassy patch shaded by a cropping of aspens on which to picnic.

We found the perfect grassy patch shaded by a cropping of aspens on which to picnic.

We brought an eclectic but tasty assortment of fresh fruit, crisp veggies, hard-boiled eggs, salad, rolls and cookies for our alfresco dinning. It may sound like a tummy ache in a handbasket but it settled nicely.

The view from our picnic point was pretty remarkable.

The view from our picnic point was pretty remarkable.

After we stuffed ourselves with those diverse victuals, we decided to wander halfway down the mountain instead of taking the lift. If we had had more time for quality time that afternoon, we would have gone on a real hike but, sadly, this downhill ambling was all we could fit in.

I wouldn't call this hiking; it was more like walking on a mountain.

I wouldn’t call this hiking; it was more like walking on a mountain.

It’s not often a girl gets to cozy up with her man and a mountain all in the same afternoon. I was fortunate and full indeed.

17 Aug

Our Steamy Birthdays

Posted by on August 17, 2015 at 10:10 pm

Jason and I have birthdays relatively close to one another. Usually, he plans a birthday party for me and I organize a party for him. Juggling so many gatherings gets a bit cumbersome. So this year we decided to ditch cumbersomeness for awkwardness and arrange a joint birthday fandango for ourselves with a pirates and steampunks theme.

We held our party at historic Pioneer Hall, which was perfect given the theme.

We held our party at historic Pioneer Hall, which was perfect given the theme.

Robyn and I were going for a "Victorian gangster" vibe here.

Robyn and I were going for a “Victorian gangster” vibe here.

Since Jason and I are vintage dancing enthusiast, we opted to make the entertainment at our bash match the motif. We had our dance instructor teach the sweetest moves from the 1700s and 1800s to our guests. Although these steps were new to most attendees, our friends learned quickly. We had a few spills but they were all softened by laughter. Nicely done you scurvy blaggards!

The cake Robyn made for us featured riveted seams and vented steam.

The cake Robyn made for us featured riveted seams and vented steam.

Many of our friends showed up in attire befitting this affair.

Many of our friends showed up in attire befitting this affair.

Lucky Seven is an easy and energetic dance.

Lucky Seven is an easy and energetic dance.

The grub at our gig was much better than tack and jerky. We provided quiches, scones and tarts from Elizabeth’s English Bakery. Also, my friend Robyn made the most amazing cake for the affair. It actually vented steam.

Occasionally, a dancer fell flat but the dancing never did.

Occasionally, a dancer fell flat but the dancing never did.

Yes, I had some fun editing the pictures from the party.

Yes, I had some fun editing the pictures from the party.

It was a bang-up evening! Many thanks to the seadogs and odd sticks that joined us for this night of nautical, mechanical and edible delights.

10 Aug

Biking in Moab: A Guide for the Practical Nature Lover

Posted by on August 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm

I am a Moab enthusiast. My husband and I have been traveling to Moab twice a year for almost a decade. In this post, I will be giving practical tips for mountain bikers visiting Moab. It’s my wordy shout-out to my favorite desert destination.

Before I begin my lengthy advice, let me congratulate you on your consideration of Moab. You are as wise as you are wise. Second, let me warn you. If you don’t already know that you need to take plenty of water and slather on sunscreen before heading out into the desert on a two-wheeled contraption, this blog post is not for you. (I’d recommend Common Sense in the Outdoors 101.) Or if you prefer to zoom through unbelievably beautiful terrain like you’re in a race, this post won’t apply. These tips are for the nature lover that happens to love nature best from the seat of a bike. Now, with that covered, let’s move on to my oh-so-helpful guidance.

Much of the desert surrounding Moab is so intensely colored it looks fabricated.

Much of the desert surrounding Moab is so intensely colored it looks fabricated.

How do you get to Moab?

The same way you get anywhere. You jump in a car and drive or you fly. Salt Lake City, along with its expansive airport, is only about a four-hour drive from Moab. Moab has a small airport but it’s very small. If you don’t have your own plane, then Salt Lake City is a much better option. Be aware that the section of Utah between Salt Lake City and Moab does not represent the terrain of the state as a whole. Parts of it are really quite homely and I’m embarrassed to include them in the irregular hexagon I call home. Also, keep in mind that if you are flying for any portion of your journey, you don’t need to worry about packing a bike. (Overhead bin?) There are a whole slew of places to rent cycles in Moab.

Do I need to make hotel reservations in advance to stay in Moab?

Yes, yes, YES! In fact, making reservations a couple months beforehand is not a bad idea. Definitely don’t expect to just roll into town and find a place to stay on the fly, unless you’re keen on car snoozing. There are a number of locations to camp around Moab too but, frankly, mountain biking in the desert is a messy affair. Nothing is quite as necessary, or as delightful, as a warm shower after an intense day of sandy cycling. Therefore, although we like to camp, when we are in Moab we stick to lodgings with non-mobile walls.

Canyonlands National Park is just a quick ride from Moab.

Canyonlands National Park is just a quick ride from Moab.

Are there a lot of biking options around Moab? I’ve only heard of Slickrock.

I’ve probably spent about 50 days biking and hiking in Moab since I’ve been married and the only trail I’ve biked more than once is Slickrock, which my husband and I have done three or four times. The path possibilities are really a little overwhelming because so many of them are so delicious. That’s one of the reasons we keep coming back, to make ourselves feel better about what we just can’t get to each time.

Are the biking trails in the area easy to find?

Some are a cinch to find and some are harder to locate than a belly button on a caterpillar. Jason and I have purchased a few guides to biking in Moab to make trail detecting easier. With so many paths in the area that crisscross and evaporate, I would highly recommend you do the same. We like FalconGuides or Rider Mel’s. On that note, be mindful that the ride times listed in these books are typically way off unless you are a diehard that doesn’t care about stopping for lunch, pictures or breath. If you appreciate scenery and snack breaks, doubling the times given in these guides should leave you lots of wiggle room.

If you like photography, you'll love Moab.

If you like photography, you’ll love Moab.

Are all of the biking trails around Moab extreme and difficult?

No, the only thing all of Moab’s biking paths have in common is their remarkable setting. No matter what your skill level, you can find trails right for you. Plus, even the more difficult routes can be handled by those less experienced if they are in decent physical condition and have the common sense to walk their bikes on the sections that are way too challenging for their abilities. The only path I wouldn’t even recommend walking a bike on is the Portal Trail. Three cyclists have died there and squeezing across its tiny brim is intimidating enough without trying to hang onto a bike. If you feel inclined to check it out, I’d suggest going sans cycle.

Be aware when choosing trails that mileage alone is not a good indication of exertion required, especially when sand is involved. You may ride a mile in sand at a barely perceptible pace and feel like you’ve run a marathon. Remember, many of the impressive rock formations around Moab are made out of sandstone, which isn’t called that for nothing. Know what to expect from a trail before you expend all of your emergency energy reserves, the ones only for running from a T. rex or saving Ferris, wading through the maw of some gritty beast or scaling up an incline even a mountain goat would snub.

The hiking options around Moab are as numerous as the biking ones.

The hiking options around Moab are as numerous as the biking ones.

When is the best time to go to Moab?

Not the summer! Moab is a desert and July and August there range from miserable to deadly, especially if you are pedaling about like a mad person. We like to go between mid-September and mid-November in the fall and between mid-March and mid-June in the spring. If you do find yourself in Moab when it is roasting, I would recommend biking in the La Sal Mountains instead of on the desert plateaus. You will miss some of Moab’s most unique scenery but you’ll also miss expiring from heat exhaustion.

If you timed your trip just right, from the middle of March to the middle of April, you could actually have the best outdoor vacation of your life. You could spend some time snowboarding or skiing near Salt Lake City and then drive a few hours down to Moab for some fabulous mountain biking. We’ve snowboarded on three feet of fresh powder one day in Park City and biked in 70s perfection in Moab the next. Life doesn’t get any better. I mean that.

I don’t want to starve for 40 days out in the desert? What about lunch?

Almost all of the eateries around town do lunches to go. These establishments are used to their clients being the impatient-to-get-out-there type. Our favorite place to pick up lunch and breakfast at the same time is the Love Muffin Café but there are numerous options for this in Moab.

This was taken during one of those magical sunset moments.

This was taken during one of those magical sunset moments.

Any photography suggestions?

There are five to ten minutes of light magic that happen as the sun is setting on Moab’s red rock. The stone smolders in the sinking glow. It’s practically impossible to get a bad picture during this brief period. If you see the rock start blazing, stop whatever you are doing and start shooting. You will be amazed at what you can capture.

Any other random tips?

If you plan on biking multiple days, please keep your tush in mind. Yes, your tush. Mountain biking in Moab is really bumpy. If you aren’t used to that rattle, or if you’re taking your bike out for the first time since winter’s tantrums, your butt is going to throb after a day on the saddle. Getting back on your seat the next day will feel like a cactus to the crotch. We like to give our backsides a break with a day of hiking sandwiched in between our two biking days. This doesn’t always alleviate the pains in our arses but it does help.

Moab, despite its familiarity, always feels like an adventure to me. It’s that perfect mix of gorgeousness and exhilaration you wish you could find on a dating site. My final bit of advice? Get to Moab and ride!

3 Aug

Cup Creations

Posted by on August 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm

It’s no secret that I like to play with my food. That comes with being a food scientist. Some of my latest edible experiments have involved those little morsels of frosted dessert that everyone loves. I’m talking about cupcakes of course. (The title of this post should have been a giveaway.)

These flowers did provide power in the form of a disaccharide known as sucrose.

These flowers did provide power in the form of a disaccharide known as sucrose.

We made these devil's food cupcakes with ganache frosting from scratch as a Father's Day treat.

We made these devil’s food cupcakes with ganache frosting from scratch as a Father’s Day treat.

I am often designated the dessert bringer at family dinners. Cupcakes are my sweet of choice for these functions when birthdays are concerned and sometimes my pick when they are not. For cupcakes can be dressed to fit any situation and are just enough of a treat to tempt even the most stalwart of health nuts. Sure, they are sweeter than Relief Society chicks on a Super Saturday but who could say no to just a touch of sugar saturation?

For Isabelle's and Abigail's birthdays, Jason and I made pink kitty cupcakes.

For Isabelle’s and Abigail’s birthdays, Jason and I made pink kitty cupcakes.

Since Andrew is a cheesecake fan, I made the cup version of raspberry marble cheesecake for his birthday celebration.

Since Andrew is a cheesecake fan, I made the cup version of raspberry marble cheesecake for his birthday celebration.

Incidentally, most of my recent recipe and decoration ideas have come from Martha Stewart’s cupcake book. I’ve found it an excellent resource for improving both the look and taste of my cup stuff. Her volume on shivs is outstanding too.