Katie’s Gingerbread

Posting from HQ: December 24

By nature, we are dessert people. Well, let’s be honest, by ‘dessert people’ we really mean chocolate people.  So of course, we love all of the sweet, festive treats this time of year.  Here’s a fabulous gingerbread recipe that Katie made the other day.  Yep, there’s some chocolate in there.  But we think you will find it every bit as spicy and lovely as the traditional version.  Whip cream on top is devine!


1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1 cup molasses

1/4 cup applesauce

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup hot water

2 Gingerbread Truffle Bars, coarsely chopped (1 1/2 works fine if you must nibble while cooking)


Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9″ square pan or loaf pan.  In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter.  Beat in the egg and stir in the molasses and applesauce.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Blend into the molasses mixture.  Stir in hot water and then fold in the Gingerbread Truffle Bar pieces.  Pour into the pan, filling pan approx. halfway.  Bake about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Unless of course, it hits a chocolate chunk!


Our Favorite Things

Posting from HQ:  December 21

Here is a quick roundup of a few things we love! Starting with Jonathan Adler pink poodles and Barbie wreath in the same room.

The Kate Spade Cha Cha Chocolate Clutch – we think appropriate for every occassion.

Tarina Tarantino plastic heart bracelet.

Passion and green iced tea – no water, no sweetener.

Dean Martin – Making Spirits Bright Christmas Album (hands down favorite song:  Baby It’s Cold Outside.)

And for the finishing touch …Essie ‘Mink Muffs’ Nail Polish.


Kili Climb: Final Descent

Excerpt from Jean’s Diary: 10,000 ft to 5,000 ft

When we awoke, what we had accomplished the day before started dawning on us. The campsite was super tight & Dornechia & Maria saw the real Jean with matted down frizzy hat head hair & asked if they could touch it!

We packed up again, and stumbled into breakfast dreading more down. My ankles have developed a nasty burn/rash, as did Hillary’s and Jill’s.  My toes were swollen & bruised & ached so badly.

 “Old lady legs” – yes those are mine

The cooks had prepared a cake congratulating us on our summit – they bake it in tents on burners – cannot imagine how hard that would be, but they were so pleased to do it. Then we started our final hike on Kilimanjaro. It was pretty easy luckily and we were in the jungle the whole time. The path was muddy & slippery but I was happy that it was almost over and I didn’t care. We never stopped & 3.5 hours later we heard singing. 75 porters were gathered at the finish line singing celebratory songs in our honor. All our kitchen and climbing staff were there. Peter had juice for us like every other arrival at camp. They put leis around our necks and high-fived us & sang us into our final destination. It made it all worthwhile.

Our own private parade of porters celebrating our completion.

Once at the gate, they had beers, sodas and a beautiful lunch buffet, and lots of street vendors trying to sell us souvenirs. They took our boots off and washed them for us. They also washed and returned our gators.

We lingered for an hour planning our next rendezvous. Jill’s 50th birthday party & chocolate factory tours on 4/21/12. Then we hit the road back to Arusha. The street vendors swarmed our vehicles trying to sell us one last thing. Joe wanted to explode! Jill bought nesting bowls . I bought a plaque with the words to the Kilimanjaro song on it.

It was over! 10 months of planning, discussing, training, physical therapy, worrying, packing – over.


Kili Climb: Summit Day


Excerpt from Jean’s Diary:  Ascend 15,000+ ft to 19,340 ft, then descend 19,340 ft to 10,000 ft

Wake up call was @ 11 pm and I didn’t sleep a wink in nervous anticipation of our summit bid and because it was really cold! I slept in my clothes and quickly cleaned up and headed to our midnight snack of mush, a pancake, a slice of French toast & some fruit. John told us if we didn’t eat, we were done and he wouldn’t let us summit, so we ate what we could. I decided not to take my camelback because I was told it would freeze if it was in my backpack and the rigged straps to hold it against my body were uncomfortable, so gave up and carried only 2 liters of H20 in my parka pockets. Not enough!

I had candy stuffed in my pockets. We were told to bring a pound of snacks each. And I had tissues, eye drops, chapstick, and my camera. Neil carried the 1# satellite phone for me. Off we went with our headlamps on guided by the recent full moon- pole pole on our 4k ft trek. The path was steep and rocky and it was cold and foggy, but soon the fog lifted and we warmed up a bit and Mehru was revealed to us – spectacular!


Sunrise in Tanzania from its highest point (not there yet)

The ground was covered in frost & it sparkled in the moonlight. It kept me going how beautiful the mountain looked by night. The porters quietly kept vigil on our group quickly appearing at our side if we needed to adjust a pole or glove. At one point I found myself tearing up at the thought of how much they helped us summit & were there for our every need, including carrying my water bottle which had become too heavy to carry. John took Jill’s backpack and strapped it to his own for the entire summit as she and I were both suffering with lower back pain form the H2O bottles in our pockets – not a good idea! We took several breaks but couldn’t rest long because it was so cold. You could feel the altitude gain with every half hour of climbing and I found the exhale breathing trick really worked to help me adapt. Soon the sun started lighting up the sky and I drew inspiration from it because it was so beautiful. The guides refused to tell us  how far we had to go and wouldn’t let us look at our watches to avoid discouragement. I tried not to look up at the peak which still loomed far in the distance but instead look at Mehru which was gradually appearing lower than us, to feel good about our progress. I was feeling good and didn’t really want or remember to eat.

I consumed both liters of water mid climb and started to panic a bit about dehydration at such high altitude. About 7am we approached Stella Point which is above 19K ft and early explorers thought it was the high point, but we had been warned. The last hill to Stella was super steep and sandy and I just ran out of energy. I literally couldn’t lift my legs. Edward (porter), Niel and Garrett tried to push me up, but that didn’t feel right.


Niel fed me almonds & gave me his water and I slowly made my way to the top. I collapsed in heap & Joachim served me hot, sweet tea and it tasted so good and I felt hope.


Stella Point – so close to the summit on a gorgeous day; Joe with his glacier glasses complete with duct tape to block out peripheral sun

The group began final ascent to Uhuru but I needed to continue eating and Niel continued to patiently prescribe M&Ms and 3 almonds & a sip of H2O – his water.

Eventually I got up and we started our pole pole death march to Uhuru. We passed about a dozen people on their descent and Niel congratulated every one of them and every one of them told us “you are almost there” in an assortment of international accents.

 What’s left of the Kilimanjaro glaciers

 Our path along the rim & the now distant Mehru peak

The view was spectacular! We were surrounded by an enormous crater on the right and glaciers on the left. You really felt like you were on the highest point on the continent. This walk was across the rim of the crater to get to the highest point. An hour later we saw the famous stickered sign and the rest of our group. I burst into tears and could not stop crying/sobbing for 10 minutes.

 My summit saviors: Niel and Edward

We took pictures and I called Ellie on the Sat phone and she put me on speaker and some group of friends (Dina? Others?) all cheered making me cry again. Then I called Danny fast as the group was gathering for the group photo and singing the Kili song and I could barely hear him but I could hear joy in his voice.


Jambo, Jambo Bwana. Habari Gani, Mzuri Sana. Wageni, Mwakaribishwa, Kilmanjaro, Hakuna Matata.

Then the work began…the part I’d been dreading with my knees for months – going back down. We started our descent @ 9:30 am. The mountain looked so different by daylight and the first part across the crater rim was fun. I was filled with such joy! Then the steep part began and we weren’t moving quickly enough for the guides who knew what was in store for the rest of the day and how tight our time was. So Romley grabbed my pole & under arm and dragged me down the slippery slopes keeping me from falling but KILLING my toes. It kept going and going & I never even looked up to view the mountain, forget pictures. It was hard! At 1:00pm we reached high camp Kosovo and quickly ate, packed our tent/stuff from the night before (emptied pee bottles, stuffed boundary bags etc) and refilled water for the remaining 4 hours descent. No way, we can’t possibly do this; Arghh!!!!

At 2pm we departed despite my aching throbbing toes – I couldn’t believe I was hiking again after 13 hours of summiting & descending!! The going was slow because everyone was exhausted and in pain and we took breaks to cope with it. After descending for 2 hours through the Alpine desert, we hit the nasty river bed (which turned out to not be a river bed) with steep steps over big rocks. It was painful! We stopped for Cokes/Beers at the Ranger station passing a helipad and dreaming of a mechanized fossil fueled way down – no such luck. 2 days earlier hikers had to be rescued and it was $7K each way. We joked about splitting the cost, but there were 16 of us .

6:30 came & it got dark. Half of us had headlamps & the terrain was brutal with no sight. Kate’s ankle started flaring up and we spent the next two hours complaining & discussing retaliation in an effort to vent our frustration & pain. Talk about a bonding experience! The porter went on ahead & left us & we had no idea how much longer we had to go. We had been told 30 minutes more 2 hours earlier! Romley finally found us and ran ahead to tell Frank to stop and wait for us.  We finally stumbled (did I mention that Bill actually did fall?!) into camp @8:30 pm. Yes, that’s 20.5 hours after our start. Our guide John avoided us and went to bed as he knows people are NOT happy about this day and he doesn’t want to encounter their wrath.

We found the remaining tents and quickly downed some dinner & collapsed into bed. I slept until 6:30 am wake up barely urinating once (As compared to 3-5 times most nights). This was, without a doubt, the hardest day of my life.


Kili Climb: Day 6



Excerpt from Jean’s Diary:  Karanga Camp 13,106 ft to Barafu Camp 15,331 ft (and Kosovo Camp 15+K ft)


We started walking up the long hill toward Barafu Camp. This area is covered in large pieces of shale (slate) and there was a narrow path straight up. I kept my mind busy by seeing shapes in each of the pieces of rock.


After 5 hours of walking and practicing our high altitude breathing, we arrived at Barafu hoping that we would get permission to use the even higher camp – Kosovo which is @ 15+k ft and not well known to most outfitters. And yes, we did! And we were so relieved because Barafu was crowded and smelly and reminded me of a slum in India. They had a permanent toilet structure labeled “tourist toilets.”


 Tourist Toilets, horribly crowded Barafu Camp

Lunch was the usual rush, rush, purify more water, go to the bathroom, get ready, now!  Then we made the final two hour trek to the very highest camp site on Kilimanjaro. This camp was so cold it was hard to sleep.

Dinner was at 5 and we were supposed to be watered and packed and set up for our 11pm wake up call. We hit the tents for our nap @6pm, I went to bed fully dressed and slept not at all – too nervous about the summit bid.

The entire day we were surrounded in fog.




Kili Climb: Day 5

Excerpt from Jean’s Diary:  Barranco Camp 13,044 ft to Karanga Camp 13,106 ft

Everyone woke up rested & we left at 8am for a shorter day of hiking. Today we climbed the Barranco wall which is a sheer cliff with volcanic rock that requires your hands and feet to scramble over – no poles allowed. It was steep & tricky but fun! One member of our group was in tears over the fear of it – everyone has different pressure points.

Barranca Wall, no poles allowed

We took a couple of long breaks and hiked into camp around 1:00 – fun day with glorious weather. It’s amazing what difference sunshine makes in your mood. We had a great, huge lunch and spent the afternoon reading, napping, playing cards and/or journaling . John briefed us on the summit day which sounded long and arduous – it made me nervous. This morning I started taking Diomox and felt much better – no throwing up, no headaches and no acid indigestion. John the guide doesn’t believe in altitude medication so we all had to really think about whether we should but I have been feeling tough and I decided it was worth doing.

The last hill into camp had a beautiful fresh stream running underneath. Jill and I got the last tent immediately adjacent the mess tent and far from the toilet, so we tortured Niel and Joe for not saving us a tent until they switched tents with us and got Abraham Alexander to move that tent to a high point with a better view.


Kili Climb: Day 4

Excerpt from Jean’s Diary:  Shira Camp 12,500 ft to Barranco Camp 13,044 ft

Today was so hard! We left camp and the weather turned bad – rain & hail on and off and cold!  We weren’t prepared with the proper clothes or layers and froze. Luckily, I had put hand warmers in my isotoner liners while watching the moon at 5am & they saved me. The hike started at 8:15 and we trudged up until 2pm for lunch, when they rushed us out the door for the afternoon hike.

The guide was worried about getting to camp before dark and pushed us downhill hard for 4 hours with no break. Several people were in tears it was so hard. When we arrived in camp @ 6pm (10 hours later), I was so tired and my back hurt so badly I almost couldn’t move. Niel helped me get out of my boots & Alexander set up my bedding. The guides are so kind & helpful. Today I saw one rubbing Hillary’s fingers because she was suffering. Every morning Alexander helps us stuff our sacks and get ready & it’s a huge help. The kitchen staff remembers our names and greets us at camp with juice and pails of hot water for washing up.  We trudge into dinner. My stomach hurt all day with acid and bile and I couldn’t really eat. I had to leave early to throw up. I hit the sack at 9 again and slept great after throwing up again and using the pee funnel every other hour. Not an easy trip! But I’m so thankful for my huge 3.5” sleeping pad that required me to have two bags and be the butt of jokes for the gear check day.

No ‘gator tree’ today – Joe was exhausted after 2 consecutive nights of 2-3 hours sleep.

Joe hanging our gators to dry the previous day (Day3)

The headache also hit hard at a few hundred yards before the day’s summit. The last half hour of the descent was grueling!! Most of us could see the tents but they never seemed to get any closer.


Kili Climb: Day 3

Excerpt from Jean’s Diary:  Machame Camp 9,350 ft to Shira Camp 12,500 ft

Today the weather was glorious and sunny and the perfect temperature. Our hike was steep & rocky but much easier for me than yesterday. The view was magnificent and we could see Shira and Kili most of the day – gorgeous.

Out of the rain forest and into the Alpine meadow.

I slept great despite the fact that I started feeling nauseated at bedtime and threw up for relief.  Learned to use the pee funnel but filled my liter container so at 5am I headed out to the porta potty where I encountered the (almost) full moon casting it’s light in the peak of Kilimanjaro. It was one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen and it even brought tears to my eyes. I woke up Jill, Niel (doing push-ups) and Joe because you only end up with that view once in your lifetime. Soon the whole camp was awake and wondering if we were departing early for our hike !

Shira Peak from our 12K ft campsite

Kilimanjaro peak from our 12K ft campsite, full moon rising