December 16, 2013

Christmas At The Very End Of The Road 2013

What a blast!  :) 
 
Every year the owners of the Mazama General Store have a community event called 'Christmas At The Very End Of The Road.'  It's a fun gathering of local vendors, food and wine samples and a variety of free treats from the bakery.  It's our way of giving back to the community for their support throughout the year. 
 
It is also tradition that the bakers put together a gingerbread house!  There is a raffle that raises money for The Cove, a local food bank in the area that can provide food, heat and other various necessities to needy families in the Methow Valley.  Pretty cool, eh? 
 
Here is the scoop behind the scenes...  :)
 
Bea did some gorgeous Peppermint Brownies!  A brownie base with chocolate ganache, crushed peppermint and white chocolate.  They looked so pretty!  :)
 
 
 
A back up tray of some of our offerings...
 

 
We sampled our delicious Blackberry Pie with a streusel topping...

 
And Apple Pie with a lattice crust...

 
We made a slew of gluten free cookies!
Coconut Almond Macaroons
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pecan Krinkles
Cherry Chocolate Almond

 
And then we also made samples of some of the cookies we sell on a daily basis:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
Chocolate Chip
Molasses

 
We did Mini Cheesecake Bites.  Bea was a trooper putting all of that fruit on top!

 
I think these are my favorite because they're so colorful and playful! 
Red and White Pinwheels
Sugar Cookies with almond icing.

 
I grew up decorating sugar cookies with my two older sisters so this was a lot of fun for me!  Felt like a bit of home...  :)

 
Tooootally think this should be the pattern on Spiderman's suit during the holidays!!!  ;)

 
The front of house staff did an amazing job bagging everything up on the fly!
 
 
 
And then it began!  Lots of folks lined up to purchase eggnog and lattes.
 
 
And other folks made their way to the counter for free treats and shopping!
 
 
Look at these devilishly good looking folks!
 
 
As for the gingerbread house... This year we opted for a good scoop of humor mixed with political commentary and a dash of Christmas cheer!  Rather than do a tried and true gingerbread house we opted to do a gingerbread hut! 
 
 
The Hut is an incredibly controversial subject in Mazama.  This small structure was built on a ridge line that locals say doesn't fit in with the visual requirements of building.  There is a huge campaign to get the owner to move the hut and an obscene amount of money has been spent on the legalities.  You can read about it here.  I actually did a cookie order over the summer for a 'Move The Hut' event.  Remember these guys?
 
 
This year, we thought it would be funny to tell the whole story through gingerbread!  We decided to create a hut with protesters and happy people duking it out with a sign overhead that reads 'Peace On Earth.'  Ha!  Polly, one of our bread bakers, came up with the brilliant idea.  I thought it was PERFECT!

 
 
First we needed people!  I made a template and cut out all of my protesters with a knife.
 

 
They were super cute if I do say so myself!

 
 
Mary, our other baker, was awesome enough to cut the gingerbread pieces for us.  Bea helped me with creating the sugared windows.  I stacked the hut on top of cake & frosted it with royal icing.  A salt canister and sponge for support while it dried! 
 
 
And let me tell you... this was hard!  I've never done a gingerbread house-- er, hut-- before.  The pieces have to fit perfectly, the royal icing has to be whipped to the perfect consistency and then you have to figure out how to hold it in place until it dries.  It's madness!  :)

 
I love, love, LOVE the way my angry mob turned out. 
Even angry, they're still pretty cute.  ;)

 
 And here are the happy people.
They are outnumbered by far!

 
If I've got all of my facts straight, two other hot button topics that have fired up locals in the past involve wolves and, in a roundabout way, spotted owls. We thought it would drive the point home to have them hold our banner.  (These cookies were also hand cut, hand painted and very difficult!!!)
 
 
In the Methow Valley, it is always under debate whether or not regulations on wolves should be more lenient toward hunting them which could very well cause their extinction in the area.  They create a lot of chaos for farmers and ranchers. 
 
As for our spotted owl friends... Back in the 1980's locals fought a huge ski resort being built in Mazama.  Locals were so adamant about the conservation of the land, they hired environmentalists to come out to inspect the surroundings to see if Spotted Owls were in the area.  Whether or not there are spotted owls in the Methow-- who knows.  But the years it would take for environmentalists to know once & for all put a huge time and money dent in the dreams of the ski resort investors.  Enough so that they left Mazama and opened Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia.
 
Supporters of the ski resort are STILL angry about it.
 
 
 
As for the finished product??? 
Success!
 
 
I was pretty nervous to remove that salt canister and sponge!  Ha!

 
But it was a huge hit!  We even got our picture in the Methow Grist...  Who knew gingerbread could be aerodynamic!?  ;)

 
A true team effort across the board for a great night!  I LOVE this stuff-- sooo fun!!!
And guess what folks?  From the kitchen to the store... they really did move the hut.  ;)
 
 

Peace on earth to all of you!!! 
Life is too short, know what I mean?
 
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!  :)  :)  :)
 
Pitchforks and Peppermint Brownies,
MandiCrocker

November 19, 2013

Top Three Reasons I Love Mazama

"America is my country but Paris is my hometown." -Sabrina (remake)

While I've never been to Paris, my inner Sabrina always dreamed that this is how I would feel when I finally got the opportunity to go.  Now I strangely feel that way about Mazama.  To most, it's just a place, a quick stop on the map while you're headed down valley.  But to those whose lives it has grounded with the weight of it's massive mountains, it means so much more.  You find your real self reflected in the crisp waters and wonder where you had gone to all those years. 

Here are the Top 3 reasons why I'm in love...  



1.  YOU HAVE TO EARN IT.

In Mazama, you don't have a choice.  If you want any kind of life or happiness whatsoever, you really have to earn your survival both physically & emotionally.  If you're cold?  You better get off the couch, onto your aching feet, and build a fire. 



If you're out of kindling, you gather it. You need wood for the winter?  You chop it down and haul it. Lonely?  Invite people over for dinner.  Hungry?  Better get off your butt and harvest what you grew in your garden.  Stuck in your head?  Better go for a hike. There's no fast food.  There's no delivery. There's no meetup.com.

You have to 'fight for your shitty life, Annie.'  

Mazama constantly gives you the choice as to how much you want to live.  Do you want to be the tourist or really let it resonate?  Drive over the mountains or hike through them? 



I find this way of life exhilarating!  Not only is it extremely satisfying but it becomes addictive. When I had to buy a coffeemaker when my dad came to visit, I bought a percolator. I didn't want to press a button.  I wanted to earn my coffee a bit.  And in earning my coffee, I appreciate it more. With a new set of skills and triumphs, you also begin to appreciate yourself.



2.  IN MAZAMA, EVERYBODY'S YOUR FRIEND WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.  :)

One of my first nights here, there was a going away party for the baker that I replaced.  She's in her 20's. I was incredibly surprised to find myself sitting around a fire with not just twenty somethings, but a wide age range of folks.  In a town of 250, most of those being absent second home owners, you get what you get!  Despite the fact that personalities and ages couldn't be more different, everyone is friends.  And they take care of each other.


If I was in LA, there's no way I'd be hanging out with college kids.  And quite frankly, they certainly wouldn't want to be hanging out with a 35 year old.  That's old and washed up.  Might as well put me to pasture!  ;)

Here, because there are so few locals, you find yourself hanging out with people whose personalities are completely opposite of you, with different interests, younger or older, etc.  You try to hide and stay in your head because it just doesn't make sense.  Yet, with the heart of golden retrievers, they force it on you and make you go hiking or hang out or come over for dinner or.....

.....will blast Gloria Estefan in the bakery while I'm exhausted and in my head, awkwardly dance the 'conga beat' and hip check me and tell the 35 year old to 'live a little'...

 The next thing you know they've wriggled their way into your heart you've been friends for months and you're not quite sure how it happened!  

I've absolutely fallen in love with the quirks, idiosyncrasies and support within the folks of this community.  Everyone has a story and everyone is accepted.  It's weird and beautiful. And like my aunt says, "You aren't fit for Mazama unless you have baggage!"



It reminds me of a quote by Marianne Williamson:

"When you meet someone, remember that it is a holy encounter.  As you see him, you will see yourself.  As you treat him, you will treat yourself.  As you think of him, you will think of yourself.  Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself." 

Everyone is a teacher.  And this student finds herself more and more found when she keeps her heart open.

This is a highway 20 'at the hairpin' cake I did for a beautiful lady named Tina.  Her incredible girlish spirit and kindness played a big part in me wanting to stay through the winter.  She headed back to Seattle so we had a little party for her.  




Nutty, crazy, weirdo people.  Takes one to know one.  ;)


3. THE BEAUTY

Okay, so this one is pretty obvious.  :)


The Cascade Mountains are just east of us and if you follow Highway 20 it takes you down into the Methow Valley.  


It's insanely beautiful!


And what I love the most is that there are four very distinct seasons.  


In Chicago, it was a hot, sticky humid summer that melted your mascara down to your elbows and a fierce, bitter sleet-filled winter cold enough to take your breath away.  In the Methow, there is winter, spring, summer and fall and they are all as they should be!



The 'plan' (never make plans, I'm telling you) is to leave end of February.  March and April are the slowest times at the store, pretty uneventful and boring depending on the snowfall.  If I happened to stay a month or two longer than February, then I'd really get into the beauty and freshness of spring... 


If I left in spring knowing summer was around the corner-- hiking, rockclimbing, biking and the swimming hole!??? I'd want to stay for that.  But if I stay for summer to leave on the cusp of fall...


...only to know that a winter wonderland is coming!?


HOW WOULD I EVER LEAVE!!???


And there you have it.


The beauty is astounding and the energy in these mountains is powerful.  


One day I was running errands and was awestruck at the snow-capped mountains in the distance.  I went to take a picture and realized I had a friend on the left watching me.  It's beautiful in many ways... 

When are you coming to visit?  :)

MandiCrockpot