Cranberry Cheesecake Squares

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INGREDIENTS
2 cups (5 to 6 ounces) crushed chocolate graham crackers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 packages (1 pound total) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons orange or lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups (about 8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon peel

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DIRECTIONS
Line a 9-inch square baking dish with a 14-inch-long piece of foil or parchment paper and grease the foil. In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, the orange juice and vanilla at medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream and mix at low speed until blended, then beat at medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the crumbs. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water, the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and the cranberries to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice. Lower the heat and simmer until the cranberries begin to pop, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a small bowl and stir in the orange peel. Refrigerate while the cheesecake is chilling.
Holding the ends of the foil, pull the cheesecake out of the pan. Cut into 9 squares. Spoon the cranberry sauce onto the cheesecake.

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Flagstaff

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Flagstaff is this small town in northern Arizona that is home to Northern Arizona University. The infamous Route 66 also passes through the city. I love the mom n pop stores and restaurants in Flagstaff. I always regretted not attending NAU so I could have experienced living in a small town. But what Flagstaff is most popular for is Snowbowl ski resort. Students spend their weekends there and it’s only a few hours from the valley. I skied for the first time here as a kid and have brought my boys up here many times. We came up here for a fun few days after Christmas. We skied, boarded and did some sledding in some pretty cold and snowy weather.

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Christmas Party

MYA Christmas Party 2012

I love Christmas parties. It’s fun to see everyone get dressed up and celebrate the holidays together. I am blessed to be a part of a wonderful group of friends that I get to do life with and grow in my relationship with God with. We had a white elephant gift exchange and lots of great food. What a great night of fellowship!

Ski Culture

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Tonight I took my kids to Ski Pro’s Avalanche Sale at Phoenix Civic Center to pick up some gear. It’s this big sale they have every year where you can pick up ski/snowboard gear for dirt cheap. I love ski culture! I started when I was in jr. high and I’m glad I got my kids started at a young age too. They love it and I can’t wait to get a few trips in with them this year.

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Our first snowboarding trip at Sunrise in ’07

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My son Ty – 6 years old on his first snowboarding adverture

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Ty hittin’ the powder

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Snowbowl ’08

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Jake tearing it up

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Me on my board

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Snowy day in Flagstaff – I love ski towns

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Took a day off to do some sledding – we love the snow!

I started skiing when I was around 12 years old. I was blessed to have a youth pastor that took us on trips to Flagstaff. My mom was always big on making sure I got to experience fun stuff like this at a young age. She would always encouraged me to go on these trips. Once I got in high school, my Pastor Linn Winters would rent these Greyhound buses to take us to Colorado or Utah for a 3 day ski adventure. My very first out-of-state trip was to Telluride, Colorado. They would show Warren Miller ski flicks to get us pumped up for some fresh powder. Even though I was a Freshman, I was happy to make friends with some of the older guys in the group (even tough I still went through a few initiations). My buddy Gary would join me on the trips and he and I would become die-hard ski partners for years all the way up to adulthood. About five years ago, I switched over to snowboarding and love that I can do both.

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Bus trip to Utah – 1989

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The crew – Utah ’89. Diggin’ the 80’s hair and outfits

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Skiing with my friends – I was 15 years old in this picture

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Typical skier’s room before a big day – Durango, CO in ’90. I’m eating the bowl of cereal on the right

As I got better at skiing, I started to get more flamboyant. I knew I was good and I liked to show off. I started spiking my hair, wearing bright colors and even tied red ribbon to my skis to make it look like flames were coming out. I would also started to get more risky. I would do more tricks and jumps and would ski in just t-shirts. I went though skis like crazy and even got kicked out once for jumping off a large hill. I dumped a lot of money into the sport and started to fly out-of-state a lot to places like Tahoe to ski with the big boys. After I had kids, my ski life died off for a while. My ex and I did some skiing together, but raising kids took up most of our time. Now I am excited to be at a new phase of life and to experience ski/snowboard life with my boys. Even though I’m not as risky as I used to be, I have really learned to appreciate the sport. I’m thankful for the opportunities all these years to have been a part of this culture of skiing.

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My flashy days – 1991 at Sunrise ski resort

Warren Miller is a filmmaker who has been making ski movies since 1950. He is very well-known to us in ski culture and I’ve seen many of his movies on my bus trips. Every year a new flick comes out and Warren Miller Entertainment does a movie tour just before ski season starts. They show it a ASU Gammage every December after the Avalanche sale. I went to quite a few shows in my college days and just recently started the tradition with my kids. We are going to see the newest film “Flow State” later this month. I’m excited to check it out and get pumped for ski season this year.

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Last year’s snowboard trip – I broke a rib on this trip

Ice Skating

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You can tell it’s the holidays in downtown Phoenix by all the decorations that are going up. I grabbed some coffee at 8th Day and then headed down to the art walk for First Friday. I really enjoyed seeing all the Christmas lights and the people all dressed up warm for the cold weather. One of my favorite things to watch this time of year is the ice skating rink at Cityscape. Situated next to their large Christmas tree, the ice skating rink offers some fun people watching moments. I had a blast strapping on the skates and hitting the ice.

Ice skating at Cityscape in Downtown Phoenix

Already a huge hockey fan, my fascination with outdoor ice skating started in Atlanta in 2007. I was at an event with my friend Shauna and we made a promise to each other to ice  skate at the outdoor rink in Centennial Park before we left. But because of our tight schedule, it never happened. Then I had another chance to do it there with my girlfriend Ashleigh and once again it never happened. I was determined to skate on an outdoor ice skating rink in a cold weather city. I took my kids once at the Del in San Diego, but ice skating on the beach in San Diego just wasn’t the same. So Ashleigh finally took me skating at the Rockefeller center in New York. It was kind of a childhood dream come true after years of watching scenes of people skating there on TV. It was short-lived because I had a foot injury, but worth it. I’m looking forward to finally skating in Centennial Park next month when I visit Atlanta.

Ice Skating at the Del in San Diego with my kids in ’07

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Swedish Christmas Julbord

DSC04701Smörgåsbord is a type of Scandinavian meal served buffet-style with multiple cold dishes of various foods on a table, originating in Sweden. A julbord is a standard Christmas dinner in Sweden. I’m half Swedish and tonight I tried my first Christmas julbord at IKEA. We tried herring, poached salmon, hard-boiled eggs with shrimp, meatballs, lingonberries, ham potatoes with dill, rice pudding and assorted cheeses and desserts. It was all very interesting and I’m glad I had a chance to try something new.

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Restaurant at Ikea on Urbanspoon

Christmas Tree Nurseries

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Ok.. I have this thing for Christmas tree nurseries (or farms). I just love to walk through them and smell the trees around the holidays. The funny thing is that I have never actually bought a live Christmas tree. I still pull out my cheap little artificial tree every year. But someday I know I will invest in one. For now.. it is just a stroll through the nursery.