Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ski Bunnies (kinda)

Last weekend, as a finale to an incredibly crazy winter, my family took a spontaneous trip to Snowshoe, West Virginia. The next few days might just have been the most painful, yet most fun times I've ever had!
I missed part of school on Friday so we could get on the road early and wouldn't be driving up the mountain in pitch darkness. Because the upperclassmen had standardized testing in the morning, my first 2 class periods were combined, and I knew we would essentially be doing busywork the entire time so I slept in a little'll be our little secret ;). Let the record show that I didn't want to miss taking notes on World War I, my Geometry quiz, or my Biology test, so I came to school for 3 class periods because I'm just that dedicated.
After Biology we got in the car and headed west to Snowshoe for some fun on the slopes!
Snowshoe Mountain is a large, very popular ski resort in West Virginia. They're known for being incredibly fun and well-maintained, and I was incredibly excited. We got in just before 6 and checked in to our small but cozy condo. It was just a few yards from the slopes, so you could practically ski out the door!
Not 5 minutes after arriving, we came to the terrible realization that there was absolutely no cell service-not even 4G. The horror! The only time I was able to access my phone was in the village, which we only went to a few times during our stay. So we were forced to rough it, and survive off the spotty Wi-Fi only accessed by laptop.
Anyways, after a delicious dinner at a local barbecue restaurant, where I had some warm chili perfect for a cold day in the mountains, we curled up in beds and tried to sleep in the "high-altitude" (it's high in comparison to Richmond, which sits at just barely above sea level). If you've never had to sleep at a high elevation, let me be the first to tell you how difficult it is. For some reason, it makes getting to bed nearly impossible!
After a fitful night of trying to get some half-decent shut-eye, I was woken up at 7:30 in the morning. Despite my considerable lack of sleep, I was ready and eager to get rentals and start my snowboarding lesson!
At 15 years old, you'd think I'd know how to ski/snowboard by now. Even though most of my childhood weekends were spent at our vacation home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, for some reason my parents never got around to getting me lessons, despite our frequent trips to the neighboring ski resort to go tubing. Nevertheless, it's better late than never, right?

We were placed in a group with about 5 other teenagers, plus my mom. She got lots of compliments that day for being cool enough to try snowboarding with her daughters! We got in a circle as our instructor, Allan showed us the basics.

Once we understood how to clip and unclip, "keep our sandwich stacked," and one-foot skate, we headed out to the mini-halfpipe for some serious skills. 

As you can see by the 5-year-olds in the background, only advanced snowboarders like us can handle the mini-halfpipe ;). Then we made our way over to the ski-lift, which didn't exactly go over well. Getting off that thing is harder than it looks!

As you can see, I lasted approximately .00004 seconds before falling, and everyone laughed at me. But hey, embarrassing moments make great stories!

When our lessons were over, we stayed on the Bunny Slope for a little longer before heading inside and promptly falling asleep. I mean we were all out.cold. I understand now the trick to sleeping at high-altitude: wear yourself out first! Now well-rested, we stayed up late running throughout the lodge playing hide n' seek, all while a group of boys not-so-subtly tried to get our attention ;). 
The next day was slightly harder.
Reason A) There was fresh snow from the previous night, so while the first day was hard-packed and semi-slush (good for learning as it allows you to dig your board into the snow easier), on Sunday it was windy, the snow was powdery, and every move you made carved little ridges throughout the ground. When you snowboarded over these ridges, your board would catch like train tracks and send you veering off in all different directions.
Reason B) We were already incredibly sore from the day before, resorting to getting around in a serious of fits, starts, and groans, and we all moved like robots in desperate need of re-tuning. 
Reason C) I was way too confident in my board skills, thinking that I could make it off the bunny slope after only a few hours of experience. The slopes at Snowshoe are infamously steep, and even the green slopes leave people in crumpled heaps after wiping out. 

I tried what was believed to be the most benign, mellow, easy green-slope on the mountain, and it was awful! There's nothing I hate more than feeling out of control, and that's exactly how I felt going down that slope. It certainly wasn't mellow by my standards! But then again, it was my 2nd day and I had now clue how to slow down or stop, so I'd resort to purposely falling to avoid hitting people. Needless to say, this got very frustrating, very fast. I have an awful habit that, when I try something new, I expect to be really good right from the start. Whenever I start to struggle, I get frustrated that I'm not getting the hang of it fast enough. Ridiculous, I know, but it lead to me taking off my snowboard and absolutely hating that slope as I walked to the bottom. But by the time the lift took us back up to the top, I was determined to go to the bunny slope (which, to clarify, is NOT the slope I was just on. The bunny slope, also called the Skidder, is man-made and predominantly for absolute beginners like me.), and perfect my skills before re-attempting the green slope that I had such a hard time on. While I stayed on the bunny slope for the rest of the day, I am determined to ace that green-slope the next time I'm at Snowshoe! I know now that getting the hang of snowboarding is a hard process, and I need to work hard to not get too frustrated with myself when I don't pick it up immediately. 

We headed home that afternoon, but learning to snowboard was by far one of the most incredible things I've done, and I can't wait to go back!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Playing Hooky

I know I know, I'm so rebellious...
...Everytime I say that, I just have to think about the fact that my school mascot is the Rebels, so it's only fitting ;).

Anyways, I technically didn't skip school. My mom had a doctor's appointment in Baltimore and didn't want to go alone, since her pupils were getting dilated and she wasn't sure how well her vision would be afterwards. Since I'm such a wonderful daughter, I made the extremely difficult decision to miss school Thursday to see that she got home safely. As much as I just love going to school every day, family has to look out for each other right? I mean we only had two snow days that week, and God forbid I have to go to school three days in a row. The horror! P.S. We're expecting even more snow next week, so stay tuned for Winter Break Part 6!

Anyways, we woke up at 4:45 in the morning and made our way to the train station. Let me tell you, there are some very interesting people getting off the train in the middle of the night! Anyways, we quickly took our seats in the quiet car for some sleep...only for me to discover that it's impossible for me to sleep in a train. Same with planes, cars, it's a wonder I managed to sleep on our cruise last spring break! Actually, I don't know if it's that I can't sleep in moving transport, or just the fact that once I'm up, I'm up. Even if that's before 5am.

We got to John's Hopkins and my mom's appointment was finished at noon, so we checked our backpacks at some hotel and wandered around Baltimore for a little bit. At some point, the smell of baking bread completely overwhelmed us (and I really do mean overwhelmed-baking bread has to be the best smell in the world!) and we found ourselves across the street from the H&S bakery. Unfortunately the bakery is purely for production, so we couldn't go inside. Instead, we went across the street to the bakery outlet, where I came across none other than Berger cookies.

I had heard about Bergers from Pinterest, the blogger claiming that these cookies (which you can only find in Baltimore) are the best she'd ever had. Eager to see what all the hype was about, my mom and I bought 2 boxes. Oh. My. God. Boy did these babies live up to my expectations! A thin shortbread/sugar cookie, literally drowning in a dense chocolate icing. Actually, it's more like a cross between icing and rich chocolate fudge. Needless to say, these truly are my favorite cookies now! I only wish we'd gotten more boxes...

Anyways, after stopping by Whole Foods to get some goat cheese apparently only sold in Maryland (we're big on exclusive foods in my family), our stomachs started rumbling so we went over to my mom's favorite restaurant in Baltimore-Bertha's.

Bertha's is very...whimsical. It's made up of a few 19th century houses that had been remodeled into a restaurant. You wind through several different rooms and hallways-it's incredibly easy to get lost! The decor is so fun to look at-it seems like they could find somewhere to place anything, no matter how random.
Even if that means turning a tuba into a chandelier. Somehow, though, all these random odds and end work together perfectly! Not to mention the fact that they have a delicious menu...
They're famous for their mussels, imported from Canada, so we each got an order.
They offer all sorts of different dipping sauces, ranging from capers to basil to garlic. However, I've always liked my seafood as plain as possible-I just love the true flavor of the seafood itself, and don't like anything to mask it. So I opted for plain butter, barely using any of it. I guess I'm just boring!

After our delicious late lunch, we tried to wander around the city for a little longer, but the fact that we were running on hardly any sleep soon kicked in, and we stopped in Barnes & Noble to relax a little. 
The Baltimore Barnes & Noble is actually pretty cool! It's built from an old power plant, so massive rusted columns climb up the center of the bookstore.

The columns have been hollowed out, and on the inside they've put in some murals of the city's history. 

My favorite photo-the Preakness Stakes!
After flipping through books for a while, I came across this one, which I would have bought if it didn't weigh more than I did!
1001 Ways to Cook Southern...the things I could make with this book! I probably spent upwards of 30 minutes imagining the recipes I could whip up. 
I also came across this quote, and found it very relatable :)

That evening, though, it was time to catch our train and head home after a very eventful day. Still unable to sleep, I resorted to eating Berger cookies and excessively Snapchatting my friends
Get it? From Catching Fire? I was on a train...I had to take advantage of it.

And finally...the answer to the riddle from my last blog post. Just as a refresher, this was the hint:

We're five little items of an everyday sort, you'll find us all in a tennis court.

And the answer is...drumroll...

The vowels! A, E, I, O, and U...all of them are in the phrase "A Tennis Court!" I thought that was pretty clever ;)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dinner & a Sleepover

This year, I've started to notice somewhat of a pattern. I've made lots of friends and love spending time with them, but every so often there will be a lull and we'll go weeks without doing anything together outside of school. Then, something clicks and we realize just how long we've spent apart, and that brings on a string of constant sleepovers, movies, dinners, and everything else! I go from days of endlessly watching Netflix alone to desperately trying to squeeze in just one more friend into my already packed house. As a girl who loves spending time with friends but also needs her alone time, finding the balance can be pretty hard.
Anyways, lately I've found myself right in the middle of one of these strings of sleepovers, so per usual after school on Friday I piled into a car with 3 friends and headed out!

Our first stop was for frozen yogurt-we all have A-block lunch at 11:34 and school doesn't let out until 3:55, so we were all absolutely starving! No pictures here, since everyone downed theirs in a matter of minutes. We got to my friend Elena's house and did our fair share of small-talk and gossip before playing a few rounds of Just Dance-because what else are you going to do with a bunch of girls on a sugar rush?

Eventually our stomachs started rumbling again, so we opted to go to a local hibachi restaurant for dinner.
If you've never eaten hibachi, you're missing out on a very unique, very fun experience!

Basically, everyone sits around a massive table in a sort of semi-circle shape.
A very funny and friendly chef stands in the middle. He whips up each order individually on the hibachi grill, stopping occasionally to do some tricks with his spatula, flip bites of food into your mouth, and all sorts of other shenanigans! Meanwhile, you get to chow down on some traditional Japanese soup and salad.
Having a cute waiter is always a bonus ;). He kept us entertained with riddles while we waited for our food-kinda dorky, but very fun. We ended up giving him one to solve at the end of the meal...

"We're five little items of an everyday sort, you'll find us all in a tennis court"

I'll put the answer in the next blog post!

Anyways, we quickly gobbled up our food, giggling like little schoolgirls whenever our waiter came by (then again, we are schoolgirls, so we have an excuse).
At the end of the meal he gave each of us these little origami birds! I'd like to think he made them himself-he is in art school after all. After dinner, we posed in front of the restaurant for some obligatory girls-night-out group photos.

We then headed home to watch Mean Girls for the 5,000,000th time. That movie really never gets old. Of course, once we changed into our PJs we just had to take some more obligatory selfies (be warned-there's a lot)

Super sexy...and they all taken within a matter of 30 seconds, which is real talent. We're just that photogenic!

The next week was going to be foreign language week, so the rest of the weekend was dedicated to making my dish for the banquet on Monday. I'm taking French, and I get extra credit if I bring in food native to a French-speaking country, and the same goes to anyone who takes a foreign language. Then we all get to come to school Monday evening and have a proper feast! Foods from German, Spanish, Latin, Chinese, and French speaking countries, I cant wait! 

I have a passion for cooking (I cook dinner every night!) so I wanted to challenge myself for this one. I chose to make Haitian patties. They are a sort of puff-pastry native to Haiti (if you couldn't tell ;)). They are filled with a meat/tomato mixture and are absolutely delicious! They took 2 days to make since I made the puff pastry by hand, and that required a lot of rolling, folding, and chilling the dough! But Sunday afternoon, they were finally pulled out of the oven and man-oh-man were they good!

Don't those look yummy?? I'll be sure to post the recipe soon!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Point, President's Day

I know I'm just a little late uploading this one, since President's Day was last weekend, but better late than never, right?
...Anyways, usually my county gives us President's Day off. But on account of Snow-mageddon blasting through the east coast (we've only had 7 full days of school in 2014 so far), they decided to take away our beloved 3-day weekend. Then again, we had Thursday and Friday off for snow that week, so technically they just changed our 5-day weekend down to a 4-day. Such a shame.
The thing is that we'd already made plans. We were going to have a family reunion down in North Carolina, and couldn't just cancel it. Therefore I got to miss school Monday regardless, and had a lovely 6-day weekend.

Friday afternoon we picked up my cousin and began our 4-hour drive to Emerald Isle. Usually I can't stand car rides, but for some reason this one wasn't so bad! The sun had finally come out after 2+ weeks of straight clouds, making everyone just a little giddy.

Friday also happened to be Valentine's Day. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be able celebrate much. Usually my mom, sister, and I load up on chocolate, decorate the house with hearts-do something to bring some color to this god-awful winter. But after stopping at Bojangles for a quick snack, we were all incredibly excited to unwrap our food and see this:
In honor of Valentine's Day, Bojangles made these deliciously heart-shaped biscuits! They were delicious, too! After arriving in Emerald Isle we were all a little tired from all that driving (I'm not sure why sitting in a car all day makes you so groggy), so we were treated to some delicious spaghetti before heading to bed.

The next day, some storms hit the island pretty early in the morning, but luckily we were all so tired that we slept straight through them. Something about laying in bed listening to thunder rumbling, waves crashing, and rain hitting the window screens makes you never want to get up! Eventually the rain cleared, and we decided to take a walk just as the last of the rain clouds passed overhead. As we were walking down the beach a small break in the clouds formed, and all of a sudden our little section of sand was illuminated in blinding sunlight, all while surrounded by dark storms. It was surreal-something about it was so mystical that I felt like we were on another planet entirely! I raced back to the cottage to get the camera, but by the time I came back the clouds has closed again. I did manage snap this picture a little later though:
Pretty cool, huh? 
We spent the rest of the morning lounging around watching Netflix and eating mega-stuffed Oreos, until we decided to take a trip down to the Point. The Point is at the northernmost tip of the island, where the beach rounds off at a little...point (hence the name;)). The entrance is nothing special....
But once you get over the hill you're in for an incredible sight 

Nothing but sand for miles-no houses, no people, and the wind was blowing steadily towards the sea. It was amazing, as always!

After a little wandering around, we decided to head back and get ready for dinner at one of the greatest restaurants I've ever been to- Tsunami's. I hope I can go back soon and dedicate an entire post to it, it's that good! Tsunami's is an all-you-can-eat Asian buffet. It's sketchy, it's run-down, the food is questionable, but man oh man is it heavenly. It's essentially a massive room filled with buffet tables piled high with every Chinese or Japanese food you can dream of. They have at least 10 different varieties of sushi, 15 varieties of chicken, there's egg rolls, dumplings, sashimi, and everything in between. They also have a massive salad bar and stir-fry station, where you pile your plate high and hand it to a hibachi chef behind the counter, where they cook it right in front of you! And to top it off, it's only $10 a person! If you're looking for high-end, fine dining from world-renowned chefs, don't go here. But if you want a all new experience of two-star buffet with 5-star food, take a risk and go for it! I haven't gotten food poisoning yet...;)
Everyone loaded up-and by that, I mean someone getting 4 plates was considered eating light. As for me, I lost count after 6. I wish I had pictures, but the food was just too good to photograph, we ate it so fast!

The next day we drove down to Wilmington for a family reunion. I would write more, but honestly that was probably the least-exciting part of the whole vacation, even if it was the whole point for taking it!