montana – day 2

after an extremely restful sleep thursday night, we were awakened by the wafts of something delicious coming from the kitchen.  steve had whipped up a good ‘ole american breakfast for the crew, complete with eggs, bagels, fruit, and, of course, bacon.  what a delightful surprise!  i couldn’t think of a better way to start the day before hitting the slopes.  oh, wait.  yes, i could.  setting the theme song for the day!  while we were enjoying breakfast, for whatever reason people couldn’t stop singing “africa” by toto, and just like that, it was the song of the day.

everyone cleared and cleaned their dishes and then piled into the cars to drive over to base.  before we could go shredding anywhere, we first needed to pick up our passes.  ben led the group right over to the lodge and stuck us in line to wait with everyone else.  i felt quite out of place without all my gear on yet but did my best to look the part and act like i knew what i was doing.  i knew it wouldn’t be long before we were ready to go, so we patiently waited our turn as we took in the surroundings.

first of all, it amazed me how much energy there already was in the crowd.  it was my impression that the typical person coming to big sky knows the skiing and snowboarding ropes pretty well, and these people were ready to get on those lifts and tear up the mountain.  the energy was infectious, and i found that i was eager to get into my boots and find my way to the bunny slopes.

it wasn’t long before phillip was strapping my lift pass to my pants and we shuffled aside to get all suited up.  i already had on my base layers, pants, and jacket, so the next order of business was the boots.  the nice folks at lone mountain sports had given me a quick tutorial the day before on putting on boots, so i slipped off my sneakers and grabbed the left boot.  for about a solid 30 seconds, i sat there struggling, unable to bend my ankle at all and get my foot all the way forward.  i glanced around to see if anyone else was in a similar predicament.  nope, only me.  i grunted and tugged and pushed but could not get that thing on.  i finally decided i was wise enough to realize i needed help, so i hollered at ben to assist.  i was quite grateful when he told me that ski boots can be tricky to get on and that he would be more than willing to help out.  with a little more wiggling and pulling, boom!  the left boot was on!  i felt like a champion already!  with some new-found confidence, i tackled getting on the right boot all by myself.  it may have taken me a few minutes, but soon enough both boots were on and i was more ready to go than ever!

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ze best chili ever

yesterday at work we had the annual chili cookoff at the office.  like a good sport, i offered to bring some in.  however, i don’t really have a go-to-chili recipe on hand.  lucky me, my family out in california is all about a good chili competition, so i went to the experts for a little help.

my cousin ali was quick to supply a recipe that put her in first place at a local competition in southern los angeles.  well, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!  i pulled up the recipe and was slightly intimidated by the required prep work and number of ingredients, but i figured if i was going to make some chili i may as well go all out for it.

to make things easy on myself, i chopped all the vegetables earlier in the week so that the actual cooking would be a quick process.  now, after having made the chili and also eaten more bowls than i care to admit, i think it goes a long way if you chop the vegetables up as tiny as you can.  i mean, i’m not sure a big ‘ole hunk of green pepper is really what you want, but if that’s how you like your chili, go for it!

also, whatever you do, do not leave out the italian sausage.  in my opinion, the sausage is what makes the chili, so please, please, make sure you have it in there.

finally, i think i could have used a bit more heat.  now, the recipe calls for four tablespoons of chili powder which, honestly, terrified me.  as such (and not wanting the chili to be inedible because it was too spicy), i used only a single tablespoon of chili powder.  however, this recipe makes so much that i think i easily could have done at least two if not three, and i am a spice wimp.

so!  the chili cooked overnight as i dreamed happy dreams, and when i awoke in the morning, my nose was warmly greeted with the delectable scent of a cozy, home-cooked meal in the crockpot.  after freshening up, i loaded up the car and headed to the office, where i counted down the minutes until noon so that i could eat.  it’s hard to not be hungry when there are crockpots full of chili in the office!

once the hour was upon us, our moderators meghan and greg explained that we could try all three and then vote for our favorite chili, for the most unique chili, and then for the hottest chili.  the votes would be cast and collected and then the winners would be decided.

my coworkers and i gabbed and relaxed between bites of chili and cheese and bread, but i was secretly (and anxiously) awaiting the results of the competition.  now, i wouldn’t say i am much of  a competitor, but i wanted to make ali proud!

so, after all bowls were emptied and the tally sheets were in, the results were……that i won the most unique chili!  people liked the seasonings and sausage (duh!) and thought the flavor profile was unexpected (in a good way).  greg won the award for the hottest chili and then our other coworker tabri won the award for the favorite chili.  i think the potatoes in tabri’s chili is what won over everyone, even i admit it!

it was such a pleasure to become part of this company tradition, and even though the chili was a bit of work, i’d say it was worth every minute spent.  this chili is hearty without being heavy and is so delicious that i had a hard time putting my spoon down.  if you’re looking for a warm meal as the winter weather sweeps in, give this recipe a try.  i bet it’d be a hard thing to be disappointed with it.

tabri, greg, & me.

tabri, greg, & me.

february 15th – nyc

monday in new york arrived a little quicker than we probably would have liked because monday meant we were halfway through our trip – oh no!  well, even though we’d spent the last couple of days lounging in bed until the early afternoon, we couldn’t allow ourselves to just sit around on our hands three days in a row.  no, sir!  not while in new york!  so phillip and i bid au revoir to natalie for the morning and, you guessed it, hit up hot & crusty for more bagels!  i think at this point our bagel count was nearing ten.  um, should we be embarrassed?  wait, on second thought, let’s all keep our comments to ourselves regarding our bagel consumption on this trip.  yes, i think it’s safer that way and at the end of the day we’ll all still be friends.  🙂

we ordered more fresh baked bagels and hot coffee and, because we couldn’t resist, a boulder-sized chocolate, chocolate chip muffin.  well, if we’re gonna be bad, we may as well do it right!  phillip and i leisurely munched on our treats at a table inside as we people watched all the locals in their monday morning routine.  a gentleman to my left with lox and the newspaper, a couple beside him sharing a croissant, the local delivery man stopping by to get to-go bags (i’d bet good money one of them was for natalie!).  through the window we saw gentle snow flurries beginning to fall, so we figured if we were going to do some walking we’d better get to it.

it turned out that phillip and i pretty much had the whole day free to ourselves.  as much as i would love to have gone to the public library to curl up with a book, we decided to stay in the area.  since we’d already gone to the met on saturday, we decided to venture to the west side of town to see what we could see.  now, despite the fact that the snow was beginning to pick up, phillip convinced me to take a stroll with him along the sidewalks of iconic central park.  i must admit it was quite a lovely idea.  we saw several bundled pups dragging along their owners, couples arm in arm, and joggers aplenty.  the grounds were mostly quiet and although it was getting colder with each step, the scene was nothing short of picturesque.

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