With my birthday/Valentine's Day trip on the horizon, we spent the weekend getting me prepped for skiing by visiting the slopes in North and South Lake Tahoe. For someone who pretty much just learned to really ski last year, I felt like I needed a little refresher before hitting the big slopes in Whistler this coming weekend.

North Lake Tahoe: Squaw Valley

    On Friday morning, we got up before the sun, hit Chick-fil-A for breakfast right at opening, and headed to Squaw. Squaw Valley was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. We were not impressed. Maybe it was because there wasn't much snow, or because it was my first day back on the slopes in a year, or maybe it was just because it was awful. I learned to ski last year in Breckenridge, Colorado and skied later in the season at Northstar, another North Lake Tahoe ski resort. At both places, the slopes were marked, there was no chance of this beginner ending up on a black diamond because of unmarked terrain, at the top of each lift there was a map, some lifts had maps on them, and even some had guides at the top to make sure you knew where you were going. My nickname might be "Mapquest," but I can't map out mountains for the life of me, and apparently, neither can Squaw.
Picturehappy.. before heading down the green-turned-blue
    Tyler stayed with me until lunch then we split up so he could challenge himself on blacks while I continued practicing the basics on greens and pushed myself back up to blues. By "back" up to blues, I don't mean from last year - one of my first runs at Squaw was a blue because it was marked green at one point then when we got to it, it was blue. Not only was it more difficult than stated, half of it wasn't covered by snow so I had about a 7ft ridge between rocks and a huge drop. I was one unhappy camper, but not as upset as Tyler who had to sit at the bottom and coax me down.
    I also ended up in the Olympic half-pipe thanks to unmarked areas. Surprisingly I didn't do half-bad with that misfortune until I went a little too high on one side and when I went up the other half, I got stuck in rock because it wasn't covered in snow. Other than when I forced myself to fall on the green-turned-blue run to slide on my butt down the narrow part, this was my only fall of the day!

    The only way down the mountain [other than the gondola] was to take blue runs. I can pretty much conquer any blue at this point except blues that have moguls. I also hate crowds and since half of the trails on the way down were sheets of ice forcing everyone to one side while we're all trying to come down the mountain at the same time, add in a section of moguls and I was glad the day was over.
There is an ice-rink under the snow on top of the building to the right of the Olympic Rings
    There were some great views of Lake Tahoe and it was neat to see some Olympic facilities, but overall, we wouldn't recommend Squaw. Tyler said some of the blacks were good but difficult to get to. And while there is one side dedicated to greens and beginners, it was too easy for me but difficult to find anywhere else to go with no maps anywhere.

The Drive from North to South Lake Tahoe

    I really could have taken 100 pictures, but I chose to just take it all in in mental images.. okay, and I fell asleep for part of the ride! This was an attempt to show how at this point we were surrounded by the lake on both sides.

South Lake Tahoe, California, and Nevada: Heavenly

riding up the gondola from Heavenly Village
    Since Heavenly is owned/run by the same group that runs Breck and Northstar, we had high hopes. Heavenly was immediately different. When we got to the base of the lifts there was a huge map and a friendly guide who helped us map out runs that would be good for my level of skiing. Like Breck and Northstar, there were signs at the tops of lifts, maps on some of the chairs, and plenty of signs at splits in runs to make sure you stayed where you were supposed to. I was in map heaven.
    We were nervous at first because from Heavenly Village you can't see many runs at all. You take a gondola up for what feels like forever and just when you feel like you can't go any higher, you go over a peak and see another mountain full of runs!
    The fun part about Heavenly is that half of the runs are located in California and half in Nevada. We skied Nevada in the morning and met friends for lunch on the California side of the mountain. At this point, Tyler broke away with the guys for more challenging runs and I stuck with the girls for our blue runs. This is the same group we're going to Whistler with, so I'm glad my "Happily Intermediate" girls will be with me! It's difficult to follow Tyler down the mountain because I know he's been doing this his whole life and he can do it all. Skiing with the girls forces me to push myself to stay at their level because I know they're new to it too!
    We had some great runs, I never fell, and I even managed to navigate myself around fallen skiers, so I'm feeling ready for Olympic park #2 [Whistler] this coming weekend!
Back down the gondola at the end of the day
    On one of the lifts, Amanda posed the question to Anna [friend, not sister] and I, "What would you name a ski run if you had the chance to?" I said, "Rae's Run" - my middle name and an alliteration which I'm super fond of. What would you name a run?

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    There's one week left to shop and everyone has that one girl on their list that they don't know what to buy for them.. you know, the girl who constantly answers, "I don't know" every time you ask her what she wants. Sadly, I think I may be that person for my friends and family! If I want something throughout the year, I either work a few extra hours and save up for it or I convince myself that I don't need it - so by the time Christmas rolls around, it either doesn't exist anymore or I already have it stockpiled in the gifts my husband doesn't know he's getting me.
    Here are a few things that "that girl" probably convinced herself she didn't need but might like to have, broken down by category! And when in doubt, a Target gift card is always a winner.
// Comfy Cozy //
[from Left to Right]
Kate Spade Candles - Kate Spade New York
Love the color combos and encouraging memos
Sherpa Robe in Beige - Anthropologie
Quite possibly the softest robe. Ever. Wish I'd taken it home with me!
Faux Fur Hot Water Bottle - World Market
Sold individually in stores, in sets online. One for them and one for you?
Sueded-Sherpa Moccasins - Old Navy
My mom may or may not have these under the tree for me. Love slipper moccasins!
Gold Stained Mugs - SHOP by Monika
I was able to get the Lip Stain before they sold out, but the Drip is super cute too!
Fleece-Lined Leggings - Target
These are THE BEST for winter!
// Tech Essentials //
Baggu Gold-Dipped iPad Case - West Elm
Monogramming available!
Portable iPhone Charger* - Available on eBay, Amazon, and some J. Crew Outlets
Clearly I am old school with the iPhone 4, but I'm always low on battery!
SoundBender* - SoundBender
If you've seen Sharktank, you know what's up! Perfect for watching shows on the iPad.
iPhone Cases - The Everygirl and Rifle Paper Co.
Girly and durable. I love my RPC cover!
// The Beauty Queen //
New York Glitter Socks Gift Set - Kate Spade at Nordstrom
Lavish Luxe Brush Set - Sonia Kashuk® for Target
Skinny Mini Bow Stud Earrings - Kate Spade
The Kate Spade outlet also has a similar version that is less expensive!
The Golden Hairbrush* - Sonia Kashuk® for Target
Pinch Mini Emergency Kit* - Pinch Provisions
They also have a male version - stocking stuffer?
Gold Sequin Hanger - Pearls and Pastries
Available in multiple colors, but I have gold of course! Love using this for outfit planning!
Tweezers and Eyelash Curler* - Forever XXI
eos Lip Balm Multipack* - Target
Top Chef
Avocado Slicer - OXO for Williams Sonoma
My husband and I live in California and still can't cut an avocado correctly.
Bellezza Holiday Reindeer Dinnerware - Vietri
As featured in this Waiting on Martha Blog Post - how could you not fall in love?
Recipe Tin - Rifle Paper Co.
The Citrus Floral Tin reminds me of my Mammaw and great-grandma's home cookin'!
Gold Flatware - West Elm
For those fun brunches and fancy dinner parties!
iPad Under Cabinet Mount - Belkin
With very little counter space in our apartment, I usually keep the recipe in another room and run back and forth. There are many versions of this, but this is the only non-permanent one!
Dotted Linen Napkin Set - Anthropologie
iSpoon Kitchen Stylus - Umbra for CB2
"Saves Your Touchscreen from Messy Fingers" - perfect when using a recipe on your iPad!
Silicone Steamer - OXO for Target
Marketed for steaming veggies, but I use this with pasta too to drain in the pot!
  • Try to steer away from clothes unless you know her specific style and size
  • Stick with neutral colored items [creams, beige, greys, blacks, whites, golds, and blush] - whether for clothes or decor these are sure to match or blend in with a majority  of what she has already.
  • If you can't find something in-store you know they want, check Google, Amazon and eBay, it's bound to be out there somewhere! Just try to buy NWT [new with tags!]
  • Gift receipts! Don't buy anything that can't be returned unless you're 100% sure about it!
  • *All items marked with an asterisk above are also great stocking stuffer ideas!
  • Happy Shopping!
    Probably the easiest DIY ever with pretty results!

1. Collect.

    Choose pinecones with minimal damage! My mother-in-law and I collected these from around North Lake Tahoe but I'm sure you can find some in your own back yard or local park! What I wish I had done: I wanted all of the huge, full-bodied pinecones - now I wish I had chosen some more variety in shapes, sizes, and height!

2. Spray.

    I used the same gold metallic spray I used in my last DIY - I also used white for "snow"! I wanted the pinecones to look like snow-covered trees so I sprayed primarily from the top with a few spritzes down diagonally, making sure that the top was the heaviest.
    I created 3 different colors: white, gold, and a mixture! For the mixture I started with white, then sprayed gold, then dusted white on top again. Really happy with how they turned out!:

3. Decorate.

    I used mine to complete my Winter Wonderland Forest scene [as seen in my previous Winter Decor post]. Now I just need a few LED tea lights to intermix and light it up a bit more! The extras found a spot by the snowman my mom got me last year for Christmas:
    Another fun idea would be to add glitter to them - but I'm pretty sure my husband has banned glitter from our house! Happy DIY-ing!
    Keeping in theme with the "Favorite Things" giveaway [ps. have you entered yet?!] - these are a few of my favorite Winter/Christmas decorations!
Sparkly Ornaments
Yes, that is a Gold Sequin Hanger Ornament! Perfect gift for the fashion lover!
Gold Sequin Hanger Ornament - Pearl's and Pastries
German Glitter Alphabet Ornament - Pottery Barn [On sale now! If you can't find your letter online, I recommend going to your local PB!]
Golden Elephant Ornament - World Market [2 for $5!! Not sold online.]
Trees. Lots of Trees.
Create your own Winter Wonderland Forrest! I created ours in our non-functioning fire place using a white bath mat and trees. This was very last-minute but I plan to use a larger white base in the future and adding a few small LED candles in between to light it up a bit more!
Mercury Glass Trees - Home Goods [many places are selling these but Home Goods has the best prices! Plus one of the ones I got lights up!]
Burlap Trees - Target
Pine Cone "Trees" - DIY tutorial here!
The Cutest Little Gnome You Ever Did See
Currently, he's just sitting there watching over the dining area, but we have big plans for him, which I'll share later this week!
The Little Helper's Container - Waiting On Martha