Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Crazy Weather and Week 5-6 SBR

One week ago I was wearing snow boots and hiking through a foot of snow in my neighborhood.  Last night I spent nearly two hours awake with one of the loudest thunderstorms I can recall.  And finally, today I was soaking up 73 degree sunny weather in shorts and a tank top.  Evidently next week it's back to colder temperatures.  Dear Mother Nature, can we please have some consistency in climate, perhaps at least one week at a time?

In the meantime, I won't be complaining about days like today.  Just sunbathing on the deck while the last of the snow melts.

In the midst of last week's snowstorm, I completely forgot about the "Sunday SBR".  So, consider this the Wednesday swim/bike/run recap.  Week 5 was a recovery week, and coincided nicely with my ski trip.  I've been fighting a nagging virus for a couple weeks now, so the week was a little slow getting back into the swing of things.  Plus, I was on call for the weekend, which puts a damper on training.

Week 6 Totals: 11 hours, 50 minutes

Swim: 6600 yards
Bike: 5 hours
Run: 14.4 miles
Strength: 2 hours

Post-call I was happily surprised by this Valentine's Day package from Mom and Dad, plus several other holiday cards.  They know very well that chocolate is the way to my heart!  These decadent truffles and caramels are from The Chocolate Fetish in Asheville.  After eating several pieces, I only wish that their store was closer to Charlotte!  The DVD first season of Breaking Bad and a red-stripe scarf were also included.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

I'll leave you with a few meals from the week.  The first is a "kitchen sink" salad that included a bed of baby kale, mushrooms, corn, peas, vegan "chicken" salad, lentil, avocado, and a drizzle of balsamic.

It's been several weeks since I roasted some vegetables, so into the oven went butternut squash and broccoli.  The squash was drizzled with coconut oil and cinnamon, and the broccoli with EVOO, S&P, and garlic.  To round out the plate I had a corn muffin and avocado slices.

I hope everyone else is enjoying the snow-melting weather!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowpocalypse 2014

Snowstorm Pax has come and gone and left quite a mess of snow and ice in his path.  Welcome to Charlotte, NC on February 13th, 2014!

Things all got started on Tuesday when a forecast for flurries with minimal to no accumulation turned into significant snowfall and 1.5 inches of accumulation.  Fortunately the roads were pretreated with a layer of salt and sand and travel was relatively uneventful.  All of the forecasters kept warning that this was only the prelude to the main act, and were predicting 6-8 inches of snow in Charlotte the following day.

This is the first in a series of many pictures of my back deck to document the snow progression.  As you can see, Tuesday's snowfall was impressive for Southern standards, yet was only the beginning of a big storm to come.

In planning for the potential snowstorm, I made a trip to Whole Foods to gather some ingredients to make the perfect soul-warming comfort food - soup.  I loosely followed Veganomicon's recipe for French Lentil Soup with Thyme and Tarragon.  Paired with homemade corn muffins, it was the perfect cold weather meal!

Wednesday morning I went to work with plans to stay until roads began to get bad - forecasted to occur around noon when the major storm system moved into the region.  By 10:30am, however, there were advisories that roads in the south Charlotte area were becoming very slick and nearly impassible.  Considering my Camry is rear-wheel drive, I ultimately made the decision to head home around 11am rather than become stuck at the hospital.  I'm glad I left when I did, because it was indeed slick and I almost took dangerous slide into my neighborhood.

By 1pm there was a consistent snowfall and the layer on my patio furniture was slightly thicker.

It seems rare to witness a significant snow event during the daylight, so I spent the majority of the day reading and studying while being mesmerized by the snowfall out the window.  I went for a walk in the snow and captured these pictures of my neighborhood at about 6pm.

Park Road, normally lined with bumper to bumper traffic at this hour, was completely deserted.  Areas where cars had driven were slick with a hard-pack of snow.  Although snow itself in significant amounts can make roads treacherous, what added insult to injury was sleet that began to fall as the evening progressed.

This measurement of 8 inches of snow topped with sleet was taken at 7pm on Wednesday night.  Overnight predictions were for an additional 1-2 inches of accumulation with snow ending on Thursday morning.

The scene of the patio furniture is beginning to look a bit different than before, right?!

The orthopedic clinics were closed on Thursday, which afforded me a true "snow day".  I enjoyed a rare "weekend breakfast" on a weekday morning - eggs, sweet potato biscuit, and orange slices.  You can tell from the icicles hanging from the chair that freezing rain feel overnight, creating a very slick crust overtop of the snow.

A total of 10 inches of snow was present by 9am and I thought that surely the storm was nearly over.  I'm pretty sure snow isn't supposed to be higher than the doorstep here in the South!

Just when I thought the last bit of sleet was ending, a heavy snow started yet again.  I hopped on the bike for a 2 hour workout and the snow literally fell non-stop.  Finally, around 12:30 it came to an end. Final storm totals on my back deck - 12 inches!

I celebrated the end of snowstorm Pax with a taco salad lunch.  Together I layered baby kale, a brown rice and bean burrito, mushrooms, avocado, and salsa.

Here's the final patio furniture picture.  Just a bit different than the first, right?!

A second walk around the neighborhood to assess the damage revealed that a plow had cleared the main road into the subdivision.  Unfortunately, my driveway and street are still an icy, snowy, slushy mess.  Temperatures are currently inching above freezing and the thaw is beginning, but tonight brings the return of temperatures in the mid-20s, which very likely means lots of ice in the morning.

I'm on call starting Friday evening and have cases scheduled for tomorrow morning, so I'm hoping I will be able to bust out of the snow and ice.  This Florida-born girl is always excited about any opportunity for snow, but as we now reach the middle of February, there's nothing more that I want than 70 degrees and sunny skies!  Thanks "Snowstorm Pax" for bringing Charlotte the snowstorm of the decade, but I now very kindly bid you farewell.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ski Whitefish Vacation - Part 2

Thursday morning we bundled up in multiple layers, jackets, gloves, scarves, and hats, and set out for the slopes.  Our ski instructor began with the basics of getting in and out of the skis and then very quickly had us in the "magic carpet" and beginner slope.  Some of the techniques that I had learned in my very short lesson in Park City began to come back to me and I survived the morning with just a single fall.  Our last run in the lesson was the easiest green slope off the ski lift.

In the afternoon we made a few more passes on the beginner slope and then took on chair 9 and the easiest green slope again.  After a difficult first run, Mom rallied and had a good second pass before heading inside to the fire.  Dad and I made two additional runs and we were feeling increasingly confident.  Just as we were about to call it quits for the day, Royce convinced us to take a ride up chair 6 and ski chipmunk hill - a slightly steeper green slope.  He and Erin were having great success and convinced us we could do the same.  My gut told me no, but I went with the majority and up we went.  Unfortunately, my lack of speed control resulted in some impressive acrobatics when I couldn't slow down and went flying down the hill out of control.  Dad had an even more impressive stunt-like aerial and also found himself wiped out.  Fortunately, we walked away with only some bumps and bruises.  After gathering our skis and poles - littered about the mountain - we more cautiously navigated the route to the lodge and ultimately schlepped our egos and equipment home for the day.  

Back at the house we thawed out in the hot tub, finally warming the fingers and toes that had been painfully frozen for the majority of the day.  Dad had heard about Stillwater Fish House from a customer and suggested we try it for dinner.  I selected the grilled salmon over roasted vegetable smashed potatoes and a caramelized tomato.  Although the potatoes were good and tomato unique, the salmon had a distinctly fishy smell that left much to be desired.  Everyone else, however, tremendously enjoyed the house specialty - a miso marinted butterfish.

Friday morning our egos had recovered and we were ready for our day two ski lesson.  Our new instructor was much more informative and patient with our abilities and taught us many tips and tricks.  Although I felt great the first day, on Friday I just simply could not get warm.  My fingers were painfully numb within minutes of being outside and not even the hot hands in my gloves worked to make it more tolerable.  Unfortunately, just as I was about to take a break to warm up, I became progressively light-headed and things started to go black just like when I got altitude sickness in Park City.  I made it inside and quickly plopped into a chair and eventually started to return to some sense of normalcy.

Everyone did a bit more skiing in the afternoon, Mom and Dad building confidence on the greens and Erin making great progress alongside Royce and surviving a blue run on the way back to the house (positioned conveniently with ski-in/out access).  Dad cranked up a fire on the outside deck and we watched the snow showers that had been occurring all day come to an end.

I opted for a slightly warmer location inside next to the fireplace and curled up on the cozy sofa with a novel.  It's a rare occasion that I read anything non-medical related, and I thoroughly enjoyed escaping in a fiction story.  The boys even tackled some work and processed some orders that came in during our time on the slopes.  

Wasabi Sushi Bar was our dinner destination Friday night.  To start, we shared edamame, seaweed salad, and squid salad as appetizers.  

We split a vegetarian pad Thai and several sushi rolls for our entrees.  The pad thai was served with a house-made naan that we all agreed was heavenly and almost dessert-like.

The sushi rolls included tuna, smoked trout, and eel, and were presented quite nicely on a Montana-shaped plate.  Based on the freshness of the fish and vegetables, you would have never guessed we were in Montana.  We are definitely a sushi-loving family!

The last major activity of the trip was snowmobiling.  I wasn't particularly interested in spending another several hours in the bitter cold and opted for a workout and quiet time at a coffee shop instead.  From what I hear, though, it was great fun and afforded some incredible views.

These trees are referred to as "ghost trees" and are one unique thing that so many photos of Whitefish depict.  It looks like a scene straight out of a movie.

Although we saw surprisingly very little wildlife during our trip, we did come upon several elk along the side of the mountain on the last day.  We were told that the harsh winter temperatures decrease the activity and presence of the larger animals.

Saturday afternoon Dad took Royce and Erin to the Canadian border while Mom and I hung out in downtown Whitefish, doing some shopping and watching the winter carnival festivities.  Royce and Erin officially stepped foot in Canadian soil, although were disappointed that passports are no longer stamped.  Evidently it's all electric now.  The whole family reunited for dinner at Tupelo Grill.  We were impressed with all of our meals thus far, and this dinner was no exception to that.  Warm bread dipped in balsamic, oysters on the half-shell, and French onion soup got the meal started in a great way.  My dinner selection - mushroom and spinach ricotta ravioli with a butternut squash coulis - was very well executed and a perfect portion size.

Saturday night we realized that our vacation was quickly coming to an end and we had never had a pool tournament as planned.  We summoned our tired selves and gathered in the basement for the battle.  We each took turns winning a match, but ultimately it was a close tie between Dad and Royce for the title of victor.

On our way out of town on Sunday we had some time to kill prior to our flight and stopped at Montana Coffee Traders for some warm drinks and snacks.  My whole wheat ginger pear scone paired nicely with a chai latte.

By noon we were dropping off our rental car and making our way towards our gate.  A mechanical issue caused our Kalispel-->Minneapolis flight to be delayed by approximately 45 minutes.  Suddenly an hour layover in Minneapolis turned into a mad-dash sprint to catch our respective flights to Atlanta and Charlotte.  Fortunately, we all made it on board and our baggage greeted us in our final destination.

That's brings the "Perkins Family Whitefish Ski Vacation" to an end.  We made lots of great memories, witnessed the beauty of a new area of the country, worked diligently to become comfortable on skis (some of us mastered that better than others!), ate many delicious meals, and most importantly, had six days together as a family.  A huge thanks to Dad and Mom for organizing the trip and inviting us all to join them!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ski Whitefish Vacation - Part 1

After spending months and months in much anticipation of a family winter ski trip, Tuesday morning arrived and I found myself, suitcase, and snow boots sitting at the Charlotte airport ready to start my journey to Whitefish, Montana.  

As you can see based on my very empty flight, there weren't many other people interested in braving the arctic weather.  It was a tight squeeze, but all 23 passengers managed to fit in our private A320.  I gladly accepted three empty exit row seats and got comfortable.

I met the rest of the family in Minneapolis and we all made a connecting flight to Glacier International Airport in Kallispel, MT.  The scenery from 26000 feet was spectacular and was a preview of the snow and mountains that were soon to greet us.

After just a short 30 minute drive from the airport,  we arrived at our final destination.  Welcome to our cabin, a rather large and beautifully appointed home on Whitefish Mountain.  We couldn't get over the huge stacks of snow that had accumulated on the roof and the sweeping views of the mountains and ski slopes.

We spent a short while getting ourselves settled and then made the drive down the mountain and into downtown Whitefish in search of dinner.  Along the way we stopped to admire the mountainside sunset.

Pescado Blanco was the restaurant we selected for our first night's meal.  We were all hungry after a long day of flying and the 2-hour time change and Mexican sounded appealing.

The menu was centered on contemporary Mexican cuisine that featured house-made corn tortillas, salsa, and carrot-pineapple hot sauce.  The entrees included fresh fish, elk chorizo, bison, and vegetarian options.  We had no trouble polishing off several servings of chips and salsa, and then all cleaned our entree plates.  I enjoyed the vegetarian enchiladas, which were filled with butternut squash, onions, and peppers, and finished with a chipotle queso.  Delicious!

Wednesday morning we were up bright and early thanks to our east-coast body clocks.  Our first big Montana adventure was dog-sledding.  We traveled 30 miles northwest to the small town of Olney to meet our guide and his dogs at Dog Sled Adventures Montana.

This truck marked the entrance to their property and appeared to be filled with old crates for transporting the dogs.

We knew we had arrived to the correct location when the sounds of barking and howling dogs could be heard.  Dozens of small shelters and dens came into sight and a flurry of furry activity commenced.  Those dogs knew it was about time to run and they were no dobt very excited.

Several of the dogs were very friendly and were happy for some attention from dog lovers.

One by one, the dogs were leashed into their respective places on the sled, each assigned a spot based on their temperament and ability to lead versus follow.  Some had to wait to be leashed until the last minute since they chew the lines and get a bit too rambunctious.

Next came our turn to bundle into the sled.  I've yet to mention it, but the weather was absolutely bone chilling - negative 16 degrees when we started with a forecasted high for the day of negative 3.  Fortunately we were dressed for the conditions and they also wrapped us in sleeping bags to keep warm.

The dogs pulled us on a 12 mile journey through the woods.  The fact that the snow was essentially untouched except for the sled path, and the absolute stillness and silence combined to create an incredible ride.  We learned all about the dogs along the way.  The owner has 122 dogs in total, and the majority are from the local humane society.  They begin pulling at 10-12 months old and then continue on the teams until they are 12-14 years old. Together, the dogs eat more than 300 pounds of food a day, including a combination of a meat soup after runs and a purée of meats for two additional meals.

This little guy decided to give me a huge wet kiss in exchange for a picture!

After a chilling ride, we returned to their cabin and were served hot cocoa and oatmeal raisin cookies while defrosting our fingers and toes in front of a roaring fire.  Never before has hot cocoa tasted so good!

That afternoon led us to the Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort to gather our ski supplies.  Dad, Mom, Erin, and I opted for the learn to ski package that included two half-day lessons, beginner ski lift tickets, and equipment rental.  Royce, having past ski experience, opted to start skiing that afternoon and then had a two day full mountain ticket. 

One by one we were fitted with boots, skis, poles, and helmets.  Someone really needs to fashion more comfortable ski boots, as they rub in all the wrong places and are awkward to walk in.  We may be amateurs, but we did our best to look the part.

While Royce opted for a couple hours of skiing, I went for a very chilly run and then met everyone at the lodge.  My 30 minute "easy" run was anything but that.  I did some major sucking wind at 4600 feet.  I guess that's the reason people train at altitude.

The sun was shining brightly, yet the thermometer never quite reached zero degrees!

For dinner, we satisfied our cravings for pizza at McKenzie River Pizza.  We all started with salads and then ordered a few assorted pizzas.  The parentals and I shared the veggie pie, featuring thin crust, pesto, mozzarella, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, and onions.

Stay tuned for the second half of our trip, including skiing and more delicious meals!