Home…Busy….Excited

I am home…..so happy to be here – back on the coast – in my house with my man and my dog….life is good.
My last week in Yosemite was great! James came up and lived in my dorm room with me for a few days. He got to experience my life in the Valley…..he also saw a Bear!! Check the picture below, right in the center of the shot…a cute little Bear.I’m there for months and I never see a Bear and he rolls out for a walk his first morning and see’s a Bear!  not bitter…..really I’m not!  Our last night was spent at the Ahwahnee and it was amazing. We were treated like royalty, beautiful room, a Birthday gift waiting for me in the room from the manager of the hotel, a box of truffles and a fruit basket, with cheese and more chocolate! A wonderful send off. If you ever get a chance to stay at this hotel…DO IT!! All the people who work there do everything they can to make your stay unforgettable. The GM Brett Archer is taking great care of this beautiful historic gem and I take comfort in knowing its in his hands.

My time in the valley was very interesting. I love this place so deeply and to spend this time there was a gift. I realize now being home for a couple of weeks that I learned a lot more than I thought….about people…myself… food….being isolated and braving the COLD.

Here are some photos from my last week in the valleyThis is the eastern view from Glacier Point- looking at Nevada and Vernal Falls in December!! This is where I was on my 45th birthday- not a bad spot to hang out- the road up here hasn’t been open in the winter in over 20 years.

This is the upper Bridal Veil river before it falls into the valley….Frozen. We had a little picnic here. The temp was about 59, crazy warm for December, what little snow was up there was melting fast.

James and I hiked up to Devils Bathtub – it is a natural spring that streams down the rock walls and pools into a little natural bathtub. Awesome view right at the tree line.Here is a shot of the spring water coming down the rock wallsHanging at Devils BathtubThis is my roommate and her husband…. love these two, we were at Christmas Day Dinner in Curry Village. She is seriously the nicest person I met in the Valley and I thank the stars for her! I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate.

So I’m home….now what?

I’ve been busy busy and I’ve got some exciting news to share…..soon, very soon.

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Soaking up the valley

Since my time in the valley is coming to an end soon, I’m out braving the cold to see as much of it as I can. Still no snow but plenty of ice……. burr!…after awhile your face gets numb…seriously you can’t feel it. Here are some shots from my four mile stroll yesterday, it was 36 and brilliantly sunny.This is the view from our favorite camp site, yes that is the iced over Merced River……its cold.No snow…. but thin layers of ice on everything.This is over on the Curry Village side of the valley, the sun shines for about 20 minutes in the mid morning and that’s it for the whole day. It is so much colder over there. Check the shadow ice from the fence…..so cool.

This tree fell in the recent wind event we had, now it’s part of the river shore.Baby forest growing up to be tall someday.Look its me!! FREEZING…have I mentioned that its COLD.

Ok now for some food pornBon Bon’s with painted white chocolate garnishTartsTarts againTarts for days!

It’s been nice being here during the Holiday season, it’s so calm here…no malls…no traffic. Happy Monday and Happy Birthday to all my fellow December babies out there, it’s the best month to be born! …….. Julie K, Julie P, Claudia and her brand new baby boy, Chris O, Kris & Ash, Addie aka Ernie, Stella & Nico and their Nana…..kisses and hugs to you all.

A shift in the journey……

As the holidays scream upon us here in the Valley, the mood is concern. There is no snow at all. It has been slow and COLD, not many visitors. This should change soon with school being out…hopefully….but still no snow.

The work has been pretty much the same for me, lots of pancake flipping, waffle making and muffin baking. I have been allowed to work the occasional event, which by far has been my best time in the kitchen. Watching the kitchen staff plate 250 dishes in 5-6 minutes for 4 to 5 courses is very cool, precise team work at it’s best. I worked the line on a couple of courses and it was cool to be a part of it…… very cool.

Here are few pics of the last couple weeksChocolate Spice Cake topped with Fromage Blanc custard and caramel sauce. White chocolate lemon curd, citrus segments w/citrus sauce & a black and white sesame tuile. This was a dessert for a vintners dinner.Maple Leaf Tuiles….. I made 200 of these last nightand here is how they were used. This is the steamed pudding dessert for the Bracebridge dinner. Here is a shot of the line, plating a course for BracebridgeHere is a shot of the servers waiting for their cue to enter the dinning room, see the guy in the red coat and tails…hand up meant silence….I’ve never heard a kitchen so quite. It was interesting to see this well choreographed event go down. This year was the 84th time it’s be done.

I tried to get more pictures of the other courses, but it all went so fast and I’m rarely let out of my little pastry corner of the kitchen 😦

I’ve decided to go after some work opportunities back home. I am invigorated and motivated to keep learning. I will be home by the end of the year, can’t wait to start the year with new experiences.

My time here has given me courage, strength and made me so thankful for my education, my husband, my family, my home and my friends. The support you all have given me while I’ve been on this journey has been my lifeline. All of you that were my sounding boards while I moaned about being homesick, whined about the cold and sent me all the snail mail… you totally rock. I bet the post man is going to miss my silly squeals….. I love all you madly!

Chilly in the Valley

The last couple of weeks have been full of craziness. My 5 year old laptop hard drive died, first Apple product in 25 years to fail on me. This required a trip to Fresno to visit the Apple store. I was thrilled by the people in this store, they took care of me same day and it didn’t cost me more then $180, new hard drive, new keyboard, pretty much did the full tune up and all in 90 minutes. I thank the stars for Steve Jobs…. you will be missed- just finished his biography….read it.

Another interesting adventure has been trying to get wifi in my room. ATT is the provider and as with everything up here they move just as slow. Hopefully before I leave it will be up and running.

and now for your viewing pleasure………It’s been COLD in the valley, very dry and cold. The falls are freezing, this is Bridalveil Falls.This is part of the Merced River down by El Capitan about   7am and 26….burrrThis is a great spot in the summer for swimmingAnother shot in the early AM, frozen Yosemite FallsWe got some crazy wind last week, almost had to be evacuated. This is the courtyard for my dorm buildings, after the wind it left a carpet of pine needles and branches. The trees were swaying and singing for daysHere is my cute little post office, this is where I shriek with delight at all the mail I’ve been getting….the postman thinks I’m bit nutty….Thanks so much to all that have sent me stuff, it truly makes my day!!Jim this ones for you……look closely, it’s where we spent 5 hours one day back in SeptemberAnother for Jim….. a natural spring…not hot though, very cold.Christmas is starting to show up the valley, this is the entrance to the AhwahneeAhwahnee Tree

Hope you’re all doing well, I miss EVERYBODY!! Still homesick, hoping for a big snow storm or something……

Work…..finally

So I’ve been hard at it the last couple of days, working finally……it’s awesome! The day is a blur and then it’s over. It’s getting cold, snowing up on the range above us – we might get snow but probably not in the valley.

I got to eat fried Turkey Butt yesterday….amazing! The kitchen is busy prepping for Thanksgiving….the pastry kitchen will be making Turkey shaped pate a choux – it’s a cream puff pastry shaped like a turkey, dipped in chocolate and filled with ice cream, super cute. The remainder of our pastry menu consists of pumpkin cheesecake, mincemeat pie, berry pie and pumpkin pie all with fancy sauces and amazing presentation. I’m working my first night shift today, looking forward to the change up in duties and learning more. So tonight I’ll be riding my bike home in the dark vs. riding to work in the dark. I ride really fast in case a bear decides to say howdy while I’m rolling along. It’s so cold in the morning while riding to work my eyes water immediately and I’m sure one day soon my tears will freeze on my face…….yikes!

I also got some fantastic news last night, a lifetime friend of mine has been battling the big C and he is now in remission. Life is good, oh so good.

Here are some pics of the last few days.Vernal Falls from the bridge- mist trail is already closed for the seasonUp at the tree line on my way to Vernal FallsThe canopy…..so silent and beautifulMama and her babyUnion march to HRCops showed up, It’s like I’m living in another worldThis is a cake we did for a couple folks retiring from the NPS, picture of Yosemite and the Grand Tetons. 4 color process photos transfers with edible ink.My grocery store…..empty parking lot!! For anyone thats ever been here you never see this in the valley in the summer.It’s fall here….for real. Being the So Cal brat that I am, this has been pretty cool for me.

Tomorrow I’m headed into “town” Merced to meet up with my cousin Jennifer and see the movie!!! so excited!

Then I drive south Tuesday for 5 days, can’t wait to be home with Jim and Lily!!

My new 4S is waiting for me too….woohoo!!

Adjusting to my new world

Mom & Ben came to visit and it was great!….. to see people I know, to laugh, walk, hike, eat & laugh more with people I love. I wanted them to stay…….forever – but they had to get back to their worlds. I cried. Being alone has been such a challenge for me, I’m such a social girl. I’ve made a pact with myself to hike everyday I’m off work, which has been a lot  lately. I haven’t finished all my corporate indoctrination classes yet. The schedule for these is pretty random in these slow weeks before the holidays kick in. Here are some pics from the last couple days of strolling in this beautiful place I get to live in. Walking path to the falls.Fog and Falls.Lower Yosemite Falls.John Muir- the reason this valley is here for us all to enjoy.Lower Mirror Lake.Upper Mirror Lake.Ben found this really cool rock stacking garden up by mirror lake.Mom and Ben, heading home…..:(

It’s clear sunny and almost 50 today so I’m off to hike and enjoy the intense beauty of this place, so lucky to be here.

First days in the Ahwahnee Kitchen

I finally got to start working after I took a mandatory class on how to serve alcohol responsibly. hahahaha…. everyone has to take it even if you’re not serving booze. I still have more corporate indoctrination classes to look forward to, but I couldn’t start working until I took the alcohol class?? Moving on….

I have worked two full days in the kitchen 6am to 2:30, it’s busy, fun and you never stop. In the last 2 days I’ve baked a zillion muffins, cookies, pastry, chocolate dipped strawberries, pancakes, waffles, dessert sauces, scones, prepped breakfast and lunch service for the pastry dept. I’ve met a few new people each day- one old guy calls me the quite girl LOL, he sure doesn’t know me yet! Most of the people I work with have been at the Ahwahnee for over 10 years, several people 20-25 years. It’s a huge kitchen and a huge staff and it’s not even summer! I asked if pictures would be ok and they are so here is a quick tour of my last 2 days.Top photo- Bruce the baker, makes ALL the bread, amazing. Bottom photo- front of the line.Left photo- pastry kitchen where I spend my day.

Right photo – the line – Chef Larry, makes a mean veggie omelet I want one of these in my houseThree weddings today- popular date 11/11/11- I did not participate in these cakes, just watched in awe as they were assembled so quickly.Cheese Danish- seriously a zillion of them!This is the scale we use in pastry, it has to be as old as the hotel. kinda cool.
This is the last original wood walk in door, above it is where they used to keep huge chunks of ice to cool the section below it, before refrigeration. There are 5 or 6 old walk ins like these on one side of the kitchen and there are probably 10 more walk ins that are bit more modern throughout the kitchen.

It’s a thrill to walk in this kitchen and then I get to hang out and work here.

Geeking!!!

Arriving in the Valley

The drive went well, cruised through LA at 6am with no trouble, almost unheard of at anytime of day. Hit Fresno around 9am, ran some last-minute errands, then the 41 and me spent a couple of hours together. I love this entrance to the park, saw lots of snow at the top of the pass and all the way into the valley floor. Coming out of the tunnel and having your breath taken away…no matter the season – it gets me – every time.Checked in with human resources -filled out tons of paperwork -got fitted for my chef whites and then the housing adventure started. My housing guy, he works for employee services, was a nice guy with tons of patience. We headed over to the Ahwahnee dorm building -WOW….. the folks that work in this valley, get here and never leave it seem. Most are older and MOVED in! The rule is everyone has a roommate – during the winter months the park employs half the people that it does in the summer, so lots of rooms are left with one resident. The other half of your room must always be left vacant and ready for a roommate to move in. I saw at least 5 rooms that were completely occupied by one person who was dug in deep and these gals were not afraid to say “NO! I do not want a roommate” Think hoarders….. really, I’m serious. Some of these gals have been in their rooms for years and most had little furry hamster type pets….WTF! oh and all their rooms reeked like cigs! My very nice housing guy showed me more and we finally found a room with an empty tidy side, so I moved in. The room is tidy, on the second floor and I don’t have to walk to the bathroom in the snow. My room is in an old dorm style building from the 40’s, spacious room, big closet, ladies restroom and showers on my floor. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation during the winter.

I made the rounds checking out the wellness center, the loft, where employee’s hang out play pool, eat pizza and drink. I am so the new girl here. I proudly tell each person I meet that it’s my first day as an employee. It’s cold here, in the 30’s at 6:45 pm and dark…..really dark at night. I’m totally geared up with the North Face and snow boots, but no one else is. They all have sweatshirts on a tennis shoes….wtf? I’m so the new girl….LOL

It’s weird being alone, I miss my man. My Mom and Ben will be here Saturday can’t wait!  Here are some pics from a walk on my first morning.

Gratitude and Excitement

This last week…. before I leave has been…surreal, busy, yummy, funny, sad, crazy, reflective, heart warming and exciting. I truly do have the best people in my life. I have received the most thoughtful gifts, funny gifts, totally necessary gifts, phone calls, emails, texts from so many  people. All sending their love and best wishes.

Lunch with the girls at True Food……LOVED every minute of that..Thanks again

Breakfast at Ramos House…..in the rain….during a blackout. Catching up with my Gilded Girls, all three of them – lucky me! Thank you and love you all – long time – forever.

Dinning at the Fishery in PB and going to see Anthony Bourdain with my BFF, Sistah Julie, hugging and kissing her kids as much as I could, I will miss these small people a ton. Thanks for being my girl since we was 14….big love to you.

Seeing my San Diego friends, hugging everyone tightly while sharing love, excitement, life and grief.

Chatting with Robert while he keeps the Breck Girl hair in check, always makes my hair and me feel so pretty. Love you to pieces and thanks as always.

Celebrating my husbands birthday early, since I leave on his actual birthday…..bad wife – I know….dinner at Vine….Terrine of Foie Gras, Burgundy Burger and Pinot Noir flights….chocolate souffle…..lovely.

Visiting with the Johnson’s….. I love these people, we sat and laughed… a lot…..giggled even, Jimbo especially. They came over to bring me a gift…..it’s a funny gift although useful and warm.Yes these are sock monkey’s on my feet and yes these are full sized grown up onesie footy jammies. I will so be rocking these in Yosemite…..while frolicking in the snow….. They actually fit and are very warm and toasty.OK this photo needs some explaining. The Opsal’s (I’m pretty sure this came from the mind of Chris) got me some retrofitted long underwear. These handy little pockets hold hand warmer packets and yes there are pants to match with pockets on the bum. He didn’t want me to freeze my T&A off. Thank you so much for this hysterical thoughtful gift. I love you like crazy.Pastry Chef Barbie…..I squealed when I saw this….do my friends know me or what?! Jennay, Debbie and Shea, Cheers ladies! I actually got this gift twice. A darling sweet little friend of mine was kind enough to take one off my hands. I heard she is having a great time doing her make up with a red sharpie. Thanks for the Barbie love sweet friends.These items are my necessary gear. Having never lived in the mountains, snow or anywhere cold, I did my research on cold weather gear. Shared my findings with my Chicago winter expert Debi and she approved!! Then came my angels…..KR sent me the boots….Thanks so much Kathrin….you rock! Then the Spry’s got me the North Face coat. I seriously am the luckiest girl to have an Uncle Dennis and an Aunt Debbie…. everyone should be so lucky…..best Auntie and Uncle EVER! Love you both so much and thank you for EVERYTHING. hugs and kisses!

Big love and thanks to my Jim, I’ll miss you madly.

I am full of gratitude and LOVE.

The next post will be from the valley, I leave tomorrow at But*crack. woo hoo!

oh and it snowed in the valley last night….eeek!

I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. Snow is my friend:)

Secret revealed! My winter adventure at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite

So I’ve been keeping a secret……well kinda….. some of my people are cracking up right now as they read this. These people know that is has been next to impossible for me to keep a secret …. period. I’ve definitely gotten better as I get older. Moving on……..big news…….. drum roll…….Ben help me out here.
I am going on an adventure starting early November. I will be doing a pastry internship at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park this winter for 4 months. I am so honored and thrilled to have this opportunity. Especially honored to have been chosen to learn and work at this amazing historic hotel with an extremely talented crew, let alone work in Yosemite Valley. This is once in a lifetime stuff for sure. Here are some details to my immediate future as I know them now. I will be living in the mountains where it snows. I will be living in either a dorm room , cabin or heated tent cabin – size 11 x 12 with a roommate.  I will leave my Husband, Home and Lily to fend for themselves…..sniff.It’s only four months….they won’t even miss me…well Jim might…..not sure about Lily. I am so incredibly fortunate to have a husband that is so supportive and encouraging. He totally believes I can do this “live-in-the-snow” thing…..hahahaha. He is also a very good cook, so he and Lily will survive just fine. I do hope all my local peeps will invite him out, stop by and visit, drop off food- he’s a good cook but a busy working man, say hi to Lily too! I will miss the tamale party 😦 and what about the cookie party?? Who’s going to pick up my reins and carry on the tradition? SOMEONE has to!

I do hope all of you can come visit. If you’ve never been to Yosemite, what have you been doing all your life, get your *ss going!! If you’ve been…. you know. It’s hard to put into words, you must see, feel, walk, listen and enjoy it at least once in your life….seriously. I will blog this adventure as best I can, we’ll see how the wifi is in the valley. I’m still thinking this is happening to someone else….