putting off the inevitable, with photos

Husband’s birthday is this weekend. We’re having a shindig at our place, full of family and friends and wine and cake. People. Are. Coming. To. My. Messy. Messy. House.

So, in order to distract myself from the looming errands, prep cooking, vacuuming and generally making this place not entirely frightening for company, I’ve been going through the photos from our trip—the ones that don’t involve cookies, cupcakes and carrot cake, that is. So while I’m at it, I thought I’d share a few with you.

This gorgeous little stretch of Highway 24 was on the way home from the skiing part of our vacation, on our way from Breckenridge back to Colorado Springs. It was serene. It was beautiful. It was nothing like…

…the drive there. This photo was taken during a 60 second period during which my fingernails retracted from Husband’s knee. When I saw the “Icy Road” sign, I believe I said something like, “no s#$%, Sherlock,” snapped a photo, and then burrowed  my nails back into his skin.

RDG is not built for this type o climate. My heart can’t handle the car rides.

I seriously hope I never have to be in a vehicle that actually needs to use one of these things.

Something tells me that if I “lost” my brakes, the last thing that would come instinctually would be to stay on the freaking highway.

We finally, finally, arrived at our destination. At this point, I was carsick, freaked as all get-out about the ice gliding under our tires, and soooo in need of a margarita.

I was consoled by the fact that Breckenridge is a cute dang town. Snowy, festive, and…

…did I mention cute? This house makes me want to curl up by a roaring fire with a cup of tea. Spiked with bourbon.

Who am I kidding? I would probably spend all day dancing around my house singing songs about how cute my dang house is.

Speaking of cute, have you ever seen a cuter Starbucks? I don’t normally do the ‘Bucks (no offense to my pals who work at corporate), but this cute-as-a-button little yellow location almost made me want a mocha.

Our hotel (well, Ma and Dad-in-law’s timeshare) was right up this road. See that light at the top of the peak in the background? That’s a Cat, my friends. Could you imagine driving one of those things over a deserted snowy mountain in the dark? Freaky. And not in a silly way.

The next day, I was so dang excited to hit the slopes. I hadn’t skied in two seasons, since last year I was eight months pregnant at the time and would have collapsed the chairlift had I tried to ride it. Plus I was busy, you know, sleeping and eating every cake in sight.

It was cold (-12 windchill), and I wasn’t feeling great, so we skied a half day and went back after lunch. Nothing could stop me, I told myself, from tearing up the slopes the next day, all day long, when I would be more acclimatized and my legs would be stronger.

Nothing, that is, except strep throat, which landed me in the hospital two days later. On my vacation. In the ER at a skiing destination where they don’t know how do do anything except cast broken legs. Luckily, the doc hooked me up with a hefty dose of antibiotics and I spent the next few days watching movies in the hotel room.

By friday, I was good to go. It was the last day on the slopes, and I wanted, nay–needed–to ski that entire mountain.

And oh, was it everything I thought it would be. The sun was shining, the snow was perfect with a dusting of fresh powder, it was a temperate 22 degrees with no wind, and nothing could stop me from skiing until my legs gave out.

It was one of the most perfect days of skiing that I can remember. Really, one of the most perfect days I have ever spent outdoors.

We skied until our legs were rubber, packed it in, and headed back to the hotel to prepare for departing the next day.

The drive back was gorgeous, sunny, and luckily none of us landed in…

…jail. Although if we did, something tells me that it would be pretty easy to break out of.

Well I’m off to tackle my mounting list of to-do’s. Stay tuned this week for some lovely baked goods, some scrumptious dinners, and to hear all about the feast I’m cooking up for Husband’s birthday.

Happy hump day!

-RDG

sweets in the snow: a bakery tour of breckenridge

I had a week. It was wonderful. It was cold. It was, at times, miserable. It was, most of the time, fantastic. And delicious.

The fam and I are back from a visit, and a ski trip, with Husband’s folks in Colorado. High, dry, cold Colorado.

Here’s a few things I learned about living at 10,000 feet:

1) You always feel dehydrated, even after downing 3 gallons of water in one day. Yup. I counted.

2) It’s dry. Your nose will bleed. Your skin will chap. You feel like you can never breathe quite right. You will look like you have pneumonia when you don’t.

3) It’s freakin cold. Our first day on the mountain the wind chill was -12. Husband wore one of those embarrasing but effective neoprene face masks. I may have laughed at him a little. And then my throat froze so I stopped.

4) It makes for some fantastic damn skiing.

and, finally:

5) It’s dang hard to bake anything correctly. Cupcakes collapse into hockey pucks. Cookies melt right into the baking pan. And a chocolate cake will turn out more like a pan of brownies.

That last part being said, I was curious: how great could bakeries be at this altitude? Even if you make all of the flour, butter, and baking time adjustments, would the baked goods two miles high measure up to those down at sea level?

Lucy, my dear ma-in-law and I bundled up and set out on a quest.

Our first stop?

Clint’s. Our concierge pal Nate tipped us off that they had some rockin carrot cake. And if you’ve ever met me you know that I could eat my weight in carrot cake any dang day of the week.

It’s a cute two-level sort o deal, with sweets and coffee upstairs and the more savory junk downstairs. I think all restaurants should be divided this way. I would always know exactly where to sit.

I was a bit taken aback at the pastry case—everything was wrapped in cellophane. I don’t know about you, but to me saran wrapped baked goods are a bit drive-thru coffee stand.

It then dawned on me that this was a result of the dry atmosphere in this neck o the woods. Those loverly croissants would dry out quicker than a wino in jail if not for that tacky yet effective cellophane.

But we weren’t here for the pastries, my friends. We were here for the goods.

And this big ol’ slab-o-cake did not dissapoint. It was perfectly moist, despite all of the obstacles to keep it that way. The cream cheese frosting walked the fine line between too sweet and too cream-cheesey with ease.

The side was coated with chopped walnuts, which I adore. It gives it such good crunch and texture, plus cuts the sweetness of the frosting nicely.

The frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect. Nothing bugs me more than too little frosting over too much cake.

Nate, thank you for bringing this carrot cake into my life. Clint’s, kudos for a job well done.

With our bellies full of sweet, nutritious (a main ingredient is carrot, after all) cake, we put our jackets back on and ventured to our next destination.

Unfortunately, our next stop was guarded by two vicious, mangy, out-for-blood attack dogs.

We managed to sneak by unscathed.

And here we are: Mary’s Mountain Cookies. It’s a cute little shop, and by little I mean about 6 feet by 6 feet. They make cookies and nothing else. I always admire that in a bakery–stick with what you’re good at. Diversity is overrated.

They had the usual suspects: snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter.

But they also had these intriguing sandwich numbers stacked with buttercream frosting…

…and these naughty dipped cookies that weighted a quarter pound each. Holy fat cookie, Batman.

In the end, we took home three varieties: cranberry white chocolate chip, double fudge white chip, and a “White Out”–two snickerdoodles hugging a hefty dollop of vanilla buttercream.

Being that our palates were still sugared-out from carrot cake, we decided to wait for the troops to come back from skiing before sampling these beauties.

Meanwhile, we moved on. Word on the street was that there was a cupcake joint in town that was not to be missed. And I’m always game for a new cupcake joint. But, sadly, it was not our day.

Our path was blocked by a man-eating, frosting-throwing, Jaba the Hut-sized Snow Cupcake!

It took all of our efforts to dodge his attempts to devour us in his huge, snow-frosting-blob of a mouth.

Luckily, Lucy knew what to do.

She flashed him her biggest, buck-toothed smile and he melted away, wrapper and all. We hopped the puddle…

…and arrived here: Breckenridge’s own Rocky Mountain Cupcakes.

It’s a sizeable shop with a rustic, ski-lodge sorta feel.

They had quite a few varieties to choose from–all beautiful, perfectly frosted, and topped with something interesting.

Ready for some cupcake porn? Here we go…

Chocolate coconut…

…strawberry snowflake (have you ever seen a cuter cupcake?)…

…key lime…

…chocolate chai…

…butterscotch…

…and the cutest dang red velvet I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Which ones to pick? We debated a while.

In the end, we settled on strawberry (because it was cute, plus I wanted to know if it actually tasted as pink as it looked), chocolate chai (for my dear ma-in-law, who loves her some chai), key lime (pretty, and an intriguing cupcake flavor), and “Double Diamond” (for husband–double chocolate).

We meandered home, past the Jaba the Cupcake puddle and the vicious blood-sucking attack dogs. We set the bakery boxes on the counter, warmed our toes, and then twiddled our thumbs and waited for the gang to get home so we could sample our loot.

Lu and I drifted off into a warm mid-afternoon nap, dreaming of skiing cookies and snowboarding cupcakes. When we awoke, much to our dismay, one of the cookies was missing. Gone. Finito. Never to be seen or heard from again.

It was, sadly, the double chocolate white chip. The one I had picked out for myself. The one I had been looking forward to all afternoon.

Scanning the fam, they all had mysterious chocolate crumbs at the corners of their mouths. Little devils.

Luckily, the other two cookies more than made up for it. The cranberry white chocolate chip was amazing–buttery and soft, crunchy at the edges, with hints of cinnamon and vanilla.

The “White Out” was absolutely insane: two of the best snickerdoodles I have ever had sandwiched with a vanilla buttercream, emphasis on the cream. It was delicious. It was divine. It weighted about two pounds.

We had no trouble finishing either cookie and moving on to the cupcakes.

The chocolate chai was the obvious winner. Moist, rich chocolate cake covered with a creamy chai-flavored frosting. Totally yummy.

The strawberry? Let’s just say it tasted very, very pink. I’ll leave it at that.

The key lime and the double chocolate were fairly yummy, although both left something to be desired in the cake department.

Overall? Decent cupcakes. Not spectacular, not terrible. Middle of the road. Except for the strawberry. That was far off the road in the ditch. But the others? Inventive, pretty and just fine.

When we go back to Breck next year, I will do two things:

1) Eat my weight in Clint’s carrot cake.

2) Sample every dang cookie Mary’s has to offer. They know how to make a seriously yummy cookie, even at 10,000 feet.

Well I’m off to recover from traveling with an 11-month old, hit the grocery because last night we had to eat bratwursts from 2007, and hopefully put a dent in the mountain of laundry we brought back from the mountain.

Thanks to the lovely bakeries of Breckenridge, CO for the delicious treats. I will not thank you, however, for my post-vacation waistline.

Happy monday!

-RDG