Skate skiing before work

Getting the skate skis out in the dark
Getting the skate skis out in the dark
I admit it. When we pulled into the Badger Pass parking lot this morning, in the dark, I had serious reservations about this being the right time to go for a skate ski. But, we had done the backward calculation, and figured this was when we needed to start to make it in to work at a reasonable hour. The car thermometer said 15°F, which is a fair bit chillier than the 35° that we are used to around here. We hadn’t waxed the skis, being lazy and accustomed to the speedy spring conditions we were having, so that meant skating was a lot harder than usual as well. We skied part way down the hill toward Bridalveil Campground. Normally that is a nice turn-around point, but I stopped early – in fear of the slow conditions and the return climb.

Theresa returning to the car, post skate, with frosty braids
Theresa returning to the car, post skate

Half-way through the ski, our faces, ears, fingers and toes were uncomfortably cold or numb, but the sun started to come out, and the sky had ribbons of pink and purple in it. During a short break, I realized that bird song was everywhere. Someday I’ll learn to recognize what kinds they were. And there were fresh tracks in the snow from coyotes and squirrels.

By the time we got back to the car, I’d gotten a nice workout, and was really enjoying the morning. It was still cold though. If you look carefully at this picture, you can see that my braids are all frosty from the cold air. Tom raced back to the car to grab the camera (and the new 50mm f/1.8 lens we just got on Monday), to take pictures.

Yosemite West coyote
Yosemite West coyote
We thawed out in the car on the drive back to our house in Yo West, and were treated to a beautiful coyote sighting. He seemed very preoccupied with something on the other side of the road, and stood still to pose while we snapped pictures. I love the Yosemite coyotes, and I think we’ve been seeing this one roaming the neighborhood for several months at least. He didn’t seem to think we were important at all – either as a threat or as a source of handouts – which is always nice to see. But I think he was happy when we finally pulled away and he could return to the road instead of falling through the deeper snow.

Then, just to top off the morning, I paused at Sentinel Bridge pull-out again to revisit the rainbow that visits around 8:30 each day. It’s like we’re becoming friends, that rainbow and I. I haven’t been stopping, the last few days, but Yosemite Falls was iced up in a beautiful fan pattern, that was already starting to come down as it got warmer out, and I was having such a great morning I decided to stop and take some more pictures. Tom and I keep promising ourselves that one day we’ll hike up the Upper Falls trail one chilly morning and hang out at Indica Point (Oh My Gosh Point) to watch the ice come crashing down.

Yosemite Falls with ice, and Brother Rainbow
Yosemite Falls with ice, and Brother Rainbow
Not too bad for a working day! It brings me back to being grateful for all the things that make my life so wonderful. An early morning ski with my favorite person in the world, skate skis, sunrise, frosty braids, cameras, new lenses, coyotes, waterfalls, rainbows, and, yes, even the job that got me out of bed at an unreasonable hour so that I could have a great morning like this.

Horsetail Falls Analysis

Natural Firefall at Horsetail Falls

Natural Firefall at Horsetail Falls
photo by T Lambert

I just came across this amazing analysis of the best time to photograph Horsetail Falls in February, and wanted to leave it here so I don’t lose it for myself.

Photographing Horsetail Falls (the Natural Firefall) in February has become a substantial Event in Yosemite. Nancy Robbins and I were joking the other day that the ‘novel shot’ these days is the picture of the crowd of people that gather together to photograph the last light of the sun as it reflects off of Horsetail Falls (which is, apparently, also known by some as El Capitan Falls because that is what Ansel Adams called it).

I am perpetually stunned with both Michael Frye and Keith Walklet‘s photography, and this type of careful research simply re-emphasizes to me the difference between the photographer who walks out into the middle of Valley and starts taking pictures and the ones like these guys who seem to be able to consistently pull out jaw-dropping unique images even in such a widely photographed location like Yosemite.  Kudos, and thanks for sharing.

Cork Flooring

Now that I pretty much suck when it comes to serious house-building projects, I’ve been given the task of researching cork flooring. Although the upstairs unit of our house is basically finished, we’re far behind schedule in terms of building out the downstairs unit. We’re so happy with our upstairs, that although our initial plan was to rent it out as a vacation rental, we’re now more inclined to keep it for ourselves, and rent out the downstairs when that is finished.  This post is really more for me, but if you’re interested in cork flooring, then by all means…

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Chefs Holidays Cooking Demonstration

Last year, I was invited to the Gala Dinner for Chefs’ Holidays, and thought it pretty amazing. But Chefs’ Holidays is so much more than just the Dinner at the end. This morning a few of us went to see John Stewart and Duskie Estes give a cooking demonstration in the Great Hall at The Ahwahnee. As the kind of person who tends to ‘heat things’ rather than actually ‘cook’, I wasn’t sure what, if anything I’d get out of this, and was pleased to be going with someone who actually follows cooking. During the presentation, it was so exceptional that she actually described herself as ‘giddy’.

We learned to make fresh pasta, Cappellacci di Zucca + Sage Browned Butter, and a delicious Lemon and Huckleberry Napoleon desert, which we were then able to sample afterward. The demonstration was a bunch of cooking, a bit of storytelling, and plenty of time for the audience to ask questions. Recipes are provided, and I wish I’d had the forethought to bring a pen to take notes. I noticed that many of the other guests were. We got tips on everything from texture, how to tell if something is done, to how long various items could be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

A few random highlights? Spices like nutmeg were introduced into Italian cooking at a time when possessing such spices was considered a mark of wealth. It doesn’t take that long to make your own fresh pasta, but it helps to know what you’re doing – fold often for good tooth. Use good wine in your cooking. Flavor is flavor. Turns out, according to one of America’s best and brightest chefs, the technical term to describe over-cooked pasta is “Just Gross”. Lemon cream can be used on everything – the Napoleons that we had, icing for doughnuts, dip for fruit, topping for waffles… Once made, it will keep for a few weeks, so make some and then just have it around. [Of course, it is made of eggs, butter, sugar, lemons and more eggs, so maybe it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your diet.] Plan ahead and thaw Filo dough the day before in the refrigerator, it will handle better that way than preserved under a wet cloth. Duskie thinks chefs create a lot of trouble for themselves when they try to cram things in quickly.

Duskie and John follow impressive sustainable cooking practices – raising their own chickens, and growing approximately 30% of the vegetables that they use at their restaurants. Harvesting is just part of prep, in their kitchens. They incorporate heirloom varieties whenever possible for their exceptionally rich flavor, further supporting local agriculture, because these varieties often do not package and ship well. Plus, they are passionate about a ‘snout to tail’ philosophy, which uses all parts of an animal, and about using antibiotic and hormone free meats. You can find out more about them, and their restaurants, Bovolo and Zazu.

Farewell to Mike Tollefson

The farewell party for Mike Tollefson, Yosemite’s Superintendent for the last 6 years, is this weekend. It’s going to be a big party with live music by the Adam Burns Band, dinner, and the works. Cher helped put together a slide show that DNC CEO Dan Jensen will give there, which finishes with some pretty fun images of Mike dancing – which is his other great passion. I’d like to see it. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to make the party, but I will still miss Mike’s leadership, and more personally just his easy friendliness. Talking to Mike never really felt like rubbing elbows with a VIP, but more like having a regular conversation with someone who loved Yosemite, and meeting people. I’m sure that was the key to his strong public support as Superintendent, and that it will continue to serve him well as President of the Yosemite Fund. When I spoke to him the other day, he said that he was nervous and excited about his new role, which is only right, and I love that even though he has a new apartment in SF, that role keeps him close to Yosemite.

I missed a chance to meet the new Interim Superintendent, Dave Uberuaga (YOU burr AH gah), at the DNC Senior Manager Meeting last week, so I’m still nervous about the new leadership. He comes to Yosemite from Mt. Rainier after 24 years in the National Park Service, and I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but could he be even close to as personable and personally engaged as Mike? Will he love Yosemite the way that Mike does? I guess only time will tell. He’s got big shoes to fill, that’s for sure.

Rainbow in Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls with Rainbow
Yosemite Falls with Rainbow

This was the scene driving in to work this morning, and I had to pull over and get a quick picture. With the warm temperatures, the falls are flowing and in the morning the spray is lit with rainbow colors. It’s just a matter of finding the right angle. This picture was taken around 8:15am from the Sentinel Bridge pull-out.

Happy New Month

Happy New Year, Everyone.

I like this time of year because, even though it’s a bit arbitrary, it’s a good time to reflect, and set goals. Of course, when it comes to goal-setting, I should really be celebrating every month.

My goal for this month is to spend more time planning things, and then actually sticking to plan. OK – time for bed. I’m planning to go to the gym tomorrow morning at 6:30.

Bracebridge Dinner Thoughts

Bracebridge Dinner is done for this year, but I already have ideas and plans for next year. Although I’ve lived in Yosemite for 5 years now, this is my first real experience with Bracebridge Dinner.

The Marketing Team at Bracebridge

The Marketing Team at Bracebridge

Why this year? First, bracebridgedinners.com put up some video of the performances on their site. Visit. I can’t describe it to you, and neither can anyone else that I’ve managed to read, although many people try. Although I’ve been staring at the pictures and reading descriptions for years, there’s something about Bracebridge that you just don’t seem to capture with static images. I was surprised at the music, although I knew there was music, and the beautiful costumes, although I’d seen many pictures of the beautiful costumes. They are so much more stunning when they are alive and in motion.

Then, I randomly kept talking to people who are completely passionate about the event. They cry and laugh during the performance, they become radiant if you simply bring up the subject of Bracebridge, and they return year after year to experience it again. Why? I had to find out, so I decided that I needed to see the event for myself. Being the relatively stingy and poor person that I am, $375 just seemed like too much money for one dinner, so I decided to volunteer to be part of the performance. Locals are invited to dress up in costume and play the role of hosts/hostesses, or forest folk, or litter bearers (although there is a height requirement for that last one, that I definitely do not qualify for). Unfortunately, my decision was made at the last minute. Martha was very gracious, and worked hard to squeeze me in.

But, as it turned out, I didn’t need to volunteer. Brian, the amazing boss that he is, contrived to take the Marketing Team to the event. Does that bring me to 487 reasons I love my job?

I had been warned that people dress up for Bracebridge, so I wore my nicest dress, but was still shocked at the elegance in the Great Lounge that evening. Tuxedos and top hats, floor length ball gowns. It was amazing. There were several of us who had never been to Bracebridge before, and I think the more experienced among us enjoyed experiencing it through fresh eyes. Apparently, several of my table-mates got a good laugh at the shocked expression on my face during one part – which I enjoyed so much that I had tears in my eyes.

So, what is it? It’s Christmas at Bracebridge Hall, based on the Washington Irving sketchbook of the same name. I probably hold ‘historic’ and ‘tradition’ in less high regard than I should, but there is a reason this performance has lasted through the decades the way that it has. Andrea Fulton, the producer and director of, and actor in the Bracebridge Dinner performance has worked hard to make the dinner in some ways contemporary and fresh, while still holding on to the Bracebridge tradition begun with the first performance way back in 1927, when The Ahwahnee was first completed.

During the course of the evening you become privy to the relationships and colorful characters who attend or visit Squire Bracebridge for the evening. I wish I could tell you which one was my favorite, but I enjoyed all of them so much the decision is too hard. We were serenaded or otherwise entertained at our table by the actors/singers several times. The intensity of the music becomes physical – vibrating in your chest. The food is superb – the menu designed by The Ahwahnee’s talented executive chef, Percy Whatley.

And next year? Next year I will volunteer far in advance, and I will get dressed up in whatever role they will give me, and I will bring my camera (cameras are forbidden during the performance) to take pictures before and after, and maybe I will become part of the Bracebridge Dinner tradition in my own small way.