Travel: Tahoe not white Christmas

Winter Break 2011 found T and I in Tahoe for Christmas with my Mom's side of the family. We did this for the first time two years ago and you can check it out here Tahoe Xmas 2009, if you missed it. Two years ago I had my first White Christmas. The snow was so good that T started skiing again after a 20-year break and we ended up spending a lot of time in Tahoe that winter. That was the winter I learned to snowboard. There was a lot of snow that winter.

There wasn't any snow this year and it kind of surprised me. In my head I was thinking we would be skiing all week like a lot of people did two years ago but that didn't happen. Instead we were able to hike and run, ice skate and sit around and read books if we wanted to. It was a completely different holiday.

Three moments stand out in my mind about this Tahoe Christmas:

Happy Hour everyday. The middle sister decided long before we drove up to Tahoe that we would have happy hour every night. She created themed nights that had signature drinks and appetizers. In theory happy hour was supposed to start at 4 or 4:30ish but I remember a day when all the girls were home and we started at 2. Hey, it's happy hour whenever you're thirsty! Nothing screams "snow bunny" minus the snow like happy hour. It was awesome.

Christmas morning.
Because there was no snow, there never seemed to be a time when all ten of us were together for long. I'm not sure if snow makes everyone hunker down or what but this year there were three days when people drove into Reno and were gone the whole day. Needless to say they missed happy hour and, as my mom would call it, "family time". The only time we were all together was Christmas morning.

But Christmas morning was awesome. My cousin made Panattoni French Toast and we all exchanged "stocking stuffers". I loved watching my family open their gifts and I got some great things too!

Another things that stands out in my mind is ice skating and morning runs. The middle sister and I started the morning runs and different days different people went with us. It was cold out (about 17 degrees when we would start) and I tried to layer and wear my snow gloves when we went out. I still felt frozen when we would get back from the 4 mile run / walk. Running hills at altitude is definitely harder than running flats at sea level and I got worked over pretty well. I really need to start doing some hill training when I run in 2012.

A friend of my uncles' arranged for all of us to go ice skating one night on a local pond that had frozen over. The cocktail sister brought hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. Someone brought a fire pit and electric lights allowed us to skate well into the night. It was awesome!


Strawberries for Christmas?

I am not having strawberries for Christmas even though I am still seeing shriveled up versions of them in the Farmers Market (I know I live in Southern California but that is too much). Hello! Strawberries are a Summer food. Stop trying to grow them year round, they taste like paste this time of year!

Unless you live in Australia.

I had a strange "ah ha" moment last week when I received a Donna Hay magazine in the mail and all the Christmas dinners looked like summer BBQs. And it dawned on me, it is summer in Australia during Christmas. Weird. It would be like us celebrating 4th of July right now. In the cold and rain with all the wrong foods!

First I have to remind you that I am not crazy. It makes perfect sense that Australia is experiencing summer right now because they are south of the equator. Everyone south of the equator is experiencing summer. It just dawned on me how experiencing summer during Christmas completly changes what you get to eat!

Food is a very big deal to me. I love it. Eating is one of my favorite things to do but all of a sudden it felt very wrong to be eating strawberries for Christmas. So wrong that I thought about it for days. And not in the judging kind of way but in the way where it made me realize things about myself. Like how important certain foods are to me at certain times of the year. And how I have somehow started eating seasonal foods and when I see things that are out of season I notice it.

I am lucky to live in Southern California where we have Farmers Markets year round. I watch the produce go through seasons and get excited when certain things start to show up. The idea of strawberries for Christmas just seemed crazy!

(In other news I absolutely adore Donna Hay magazine and save issues like this to use when we are having summer.)


Inspired by the unexpected

A "moment" captured by me in the Dominican Republic.

On Friday I saw a free lecture by Joe Buissink, a "Beverly Hills Wedding Photographer". I didn't walk in expecting anything, I can't even remember if I knew he was a wedding photographer but I walked out inspired and looking for every beautiful moment I came across.

Joe was a story teller with his words and his images. He was passionate about catching as many "moments" as he could and being able to give those "moments" to someone forever through the pictures he captured. Joe talked about "shooting from the hip" and trying to capture everything "in camera" instead of correcting later in Photoshop.

I studied photography when photoshop was starting to be taught in colleges. My first years of photography were all traditional darkroom and film stuff. I loved it. I had to trust that I had the shot with film. There was no "checking the back of the camera" to make sure. Joe talked about a lot of things but one of them was this idea that photographers that shoot digital miss a lot of great moments because they keep checking the image on the back of the camera. I started laughing at this because it is so true. I see it happen all the time. I see it at weddings, family gatherings, and even just walking by people taking pictures. They take the picture and the minute they look at the back of the camera the photo they really should have gotten happens. They miss the moment.

I have a few moment pictures and after listening to Joe I went home and looked through my old portfolio. He had recommended doing this at the lecture and said something to the affect that each picture you shoot has your footprint in it. Or a way of seeing yourself in each picture you took. It turns out he is right. I pulled out some of my pictures and found my footprint. These pictures took me right back to the moment I shot them. It was incredible. This idea of shooting pictures for myself. Loving the images I had and capturing a moment. It almost made me want to start being a photographer again.

Joe Buissink inspired me take more pictures and find the "moments" in life. The Friday night lecture turned into the most inspirational thing I've done in a long time. Thanks Joe!


Scarf me up!

For a girl that wore jeans and a t-shirt through four years of high school I have defiantly come a long way when it comes to fashion! And while I wouldn't dare say I am anywhere as close to fashionable as my two sisters, I am defiantly able to hold my own when we hang out. I've come a long way from the girl who did most of my shopping in the guys department let me tell you!

One of my crowning moments of glory was two summers ago when the three of us (my sisters and myself) walked by a group of guys in Paris who were trying to hit on us. They were trying to decided which nationality we were and settled on Italian. Seeing as the Italians are very fashion forward, I was flattered.

My wardrobe is not incredible. It consists of mostly black items that are fairly comfortable but also fit. One of my staples is a collection of scarves I have accumulated on my trips around the globe and as gifts. Scarves give me a heighten sense of fashion and make me seem... a little more international, if you will. I highly recommend one!

Surfing the internet this weekend I came across this video by Wendy's Lookbook showing 25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes! This video rocks and I hope you like it as much as I do. Enjoy!


Crock pot to the rescue

I was grumpy this week. I blame it on the time change and some heavy rain fall. Maybe a lack of sleep and my exercise routine getting thrown a little out of whack. All those things let my moodiness from the time change paint everything in a darker shade of reality this week and I could tell I was off my game.

But things started to look up and it is because of the Crock Pot.

The rain this week made me want soup and stew and something delicious waiting for me when I got home from work. Immediately I thought of the crock pot but did not feel like making beef stew all the time. I have other crock pot recipes, but with cooking times of 4-6 hours there is no way I can use them because T and I work 10 hour days.

I was contemplating the crock pot when fate stepped in and I found a book all about crock pot cooking! It was called "Art of the Slow Cooker" and I grabbed the last copy after reading through it for a few minutes.

At home I started tagging pages to try an had over 16 recipes by the time I finished chapter two! Winter was defiantly looking better now. I started out with the Jalapeno Corn Chowder and have to say it was pretty good I'm going to see how the leftovers re-heat because of the cream in the soup, but other then that I seems promising.

One thing I really like about this book is the different cooking times depending on the crock pot temperature. I have an option of a high or low crock pot setting. The low setting let's my crock pot cook all day while I am away at work.

Winter just got a lot more filling! Bring on the crock pot....


My least favorite day

Fall back is my least favorite day of the year.

I know we get an "extra" hour of sleep.

I know it will be light (again) when I run in the morning.

I know it will be dark so early at night. I will miss the sunsets as I sit in my office. I will get home and it will seem so late.

It's part of winter. The shortening of days. The way I want to curl up, and stay in, and just wait for spring.

Today, the first day after the time change is the worst for me. I sit and watch night fall and winter crushes me. I know tomorrow I will be a little better and running at sunrise starts to help. Even the thought of snowboarding makes me smile. But still, I wish for spring. And for sunsets.....


DIY Weekend!

I think this is the first weekend I have been home this October and I wanted to make the most of it. Lucky for me T was also in a bit of a project mode and helped me build a pot solution for the kitchen. Here are this weekends DIY projects

1. Paint a chair. This chair is supposed to be "Key Lime". I think they mislabeled the paint. This chair turned out to be much more chartreuse then "Key Lime". For the moment I am going to live with it, see if it grows on me.

2. Build a pegboard pot and pan holder. Success! T helped with this one and I am loving it. I will do the finally painting next week, but already I can see this is going to make it much easier to cook in our kitchen.

3. Cheap, quick, halloween light. Halloween snuck up on me a little this year and I was trying to find a solution for decorating our house and letting trick-or-treaters know we will be open for business. What I decided to do was take one of the plastic pumpkin buckets you can buy at the grocery store and cut out the back and bottom and put it over my porch light. Perfect! Super easy and very effective. I am now totally ready for Halloween.


Three days in Death Valley

UPDATED! More pictures below

I just got back from three very full days in Death Valley. I drove for a field studies class that a friend teaches. I have never been to Death Valley before and think it is such an interesting place. I am exhausted and heading to bed but wanted to share my favorite picture from Badwater. I will be updating this post with more pictures later this week!

The adventure stated at Dante's View looking down into Death Valley.

Mo teaches us about the geography of the valley.

The ladies at Dante's View

Golden Canyon

Lonely bench, out in the sun

Having a Capri-Sun break as some drivers wait for the hikers

Scottys' Castle

Matt and I at the end of the tour of the "Castle"

Ubehebe Crater

Bathroom break in the middle of no where

Devil’s Golf Course

The SBC crew....

Three days packed with so many different sites to see in Death Valley and we still have so many more we could see. Check out the National Parks website to see about planning your own adventure to Death Valley!


I'm writing a book....

I'm writing a book.

It's a cookbook filled with all my go-to recipes. Not only am I going to write this book, but I am also going to be the photographer too.

Do I plan on making millions of dollars on this and getting it published? Well no actually. I just want my go-to recipes in ONE PLACE. All together, organized and ready for me.

Lucky for me there are a lot of ways I can publish through a "vanity press". The one I have chosen to go with is Blurb books. T turned me on to this last year and we have talked about making a collaborative photo book of some of our trips. Kind of like the most professional scrapbook around! But T seems to have a lot on his plate and this idea never really took off. Me on the other hand, I've decided to make some Blurb books. The cookbook is a little ways off because I really do want to take photos for the book. Try my hand at food photography. So I have started by making a Paris book.

Two summers ago my sisters and I spent a month in Paris. I have some great pictures but they are sitting on my computer. It's time to organize them and put them in a book. I had fun working with the layout n Blurb and deciding how to theme each page. Looking at my collection of work is much harder then looking at a single picture. I'm trying to let the photos them tell a story of Paris but also let them speak about themselves. It's kind of a challenge.

When I am done with this I will move on to the cookbook. I am already compiling recipes and thinking about how to organize each section. When I am finished I will have all my go-to recipes in one place. Who knows, maybe everyone with get a "new" cookbook for Christmas that year......


The gift of a good book

Sometimes life gets away from me. It spins forward and I find myself working, going to school, eating, sleeping..... repeat. Even when I travel it spins. And I miss things. Forget to smell the flowers. Skip over the details. Become a rat in the race. It's not the way I want to live. Its not the version of myself I want to be.

When life gets like this I find I read less. For some people this is not a big deal. For me it is. Reading is a gift I give myself. A book surrounds me like a warm blanket and lets me leave my spinning world behind.

I didn't realize until recently how much I had stopped reading during the school year. There was a running commentary a colleague and I had about only getting to read during Christmas and summer break. Maybe it was because books absorb me or maybe it was because I was too tired to read when I got home. I can't put my finger on it, but I can tell you the tide has turned.

Recently a friend recommended The Hunger Games and I couldn't put it down. Which was unfortunate because I started reading it at 10:30pm and finished it at 5am the next day. I then had to read the other two books in the trilogy but waited for the weekend to come. They consumed me and took my breath away. They reminded me how much I love to read.

I realized that books are a gift we give ourselves. Or at least a gift I give myself. They let me slow down and stop the spinning in my life. Books remind me to smell the flowers and smile at strangers. And above all, take me to a place in my imagination that gets dusty with out them.

To see what I'm reading, check me out on Shelfari.


Airstream Trip: Cherry Lake

From Four Jefferies (see here if you missed that adventure) T, Samson and I headed North to meet friends at Cherry Lake. We decided to cut through Yosemite and go up Tiago Pass. It was slow going in the Airstream but we made it to the top and entered Yosemite National Park.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am a native Californian who had never visited Yosemite. Stunning is too weak of a word to describe what we saw as we crossed the upper north side of the park. The granite rock mountains, pine trees, and water were incredible and we didn't even make it to the valley where all the REALLY amazing stuff was. T and I looked at each other and said "we have to come back", "how have we missed this", "this place is amazing". Even "Yosemite Samson" (below) enjoyed the park and sat up in the truck looking around the whole time.

We arrived just outside Cherry Lake where we dry-camped with some friends of T's. For years these friends have been telling us about Cherry Lake and it finally worked out we could make it. They water ski and bring a boat. Most of the days involve hanging out at the lake water skiing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, or napping. Evening are spent around the campfire eating and laughing.

We spent three days at Cherry Lake and my body started to enjoy a slowed down version of life on this camping trip. Each day I found myself dozing at the lake in the sun, hiking with the group of dogs that belonged to the other campers, eating delicious food, and curling up for bed content and relaxed. It was a great trip and T and I were bummed to leave and head back to our grown-up lives. Here are a few pictures from the trip.
Base Camp

T making Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos

Fishing and Hiking

Day dreaming at the lake

The drive home took us about 13 hours and there was a definite sense of loss as we sat in LA traffic. The Sierra Nevada had slowly seeped into our souls and we were sad to leave it behind. I have to remind myself sometimes how lucky I am to live in California. It is a place that takes my breath away again and again. And I'm sure it is only going to get better.


Airstream Trip: Eastern Sierra 2011

Playing catch up on the summer adventures:

July found T, Samson and I in the Eastern Sierra. We met friends at Four Jefferies Campground above Bishop and used it as base camp as we explored the surrounding area. Last year we were in the Eastern Sierra in June and the snow prevented us from taking certain hikes and then started melting and increased the flow of the streams and rivers and messed up the fishing. We still had a blast last year and didn't know what we were missing until this year. This year the weather was amazing. We hiked a ton and T caught fish everyday.

We met friends at Four Jefferies Campground and spent about a week exploring the surrounding area. One adventure was off-roading to a place called Coyote Flats. It was an all day adventure and the way up was slow going. I think I would have been white knuckling the steering wheel if I had been driving, but T took it easy and I didn't have to close my eyes.... very often. We saw deer and amazing wildflowers. Some of the vistas were incredible. Here are a few pictures:
Us taking a break up the hill.

Some of the wild flowers.

One of the Vistas.

My favorite hike/days was when T and I went with Steve and Chewy (the dog) on a hike to Lower Lamark and then on to the Wonder Lakes. Steve is the ranger we met last summer and when we ran into him again he told us he had a great hike we would love. He sold T on the fishing and we were up and off at 8am.

I should let you in on a little bit of my reality when it comes to hiking. Everyone hikes at their own pace. I am 5'6" and T is 6'4". We have different hiking paces. I would even bet he might think I am slow. Steve is closer to my height but he hikes just as fast as T. Moral of the story.... Sometimes it seems like I am hiking by myself. Steve is really good about taking breaks so I can keep up but I am not sure if T would be so good about stopping to wait for me....

Back to the hike! Lower Lamark Lake was our first stop on the way up. T had hiked up here last year with Steve but it had been covered with snow. No snow this time, just a gorgeous lake.

From Lower Lamark we headed to the Wonder Lakes. Steve said it was a "class I" trail which basically means it is a trial that is not maintained. He had told us there were seven Wonder Lakes and he had made it to five of them.

Now another confession. I have lived in California for almost my whole life and I am continually awestruck by how beautiful it is. When we left Lower Lamark I didn't think the "Wonder Lakes" were going to be much better but I was wrong. If I had thought about it at all I would have realized they weren't called the Wonder Lakes by accident. Each lake was more beautiful then the next. Some of them were small and some of them were bigger. They all feed into each other so they are close together and had waterfalls. The imposing Eastern Sierra are the dramatic back drop to each of these lakes.
Wonder Lake One

Wonder Lake Two

Wonder Lake Three

Wonder Lake Four

Steve and I left T to fish at Wonder Lake four and continued our way up to lake seven. When we were at Wonder Lake seven we realized there were two more lakes! The snow levels and time of day prevented us from going further. The hike down was beautiful and we met T at Wonder Lake four were he was laughing because he was catching so many fish!
Wonder Lake Five.

Steve yelling down to T at Wonder Lake Four. You can barely see him fishing off the point.

Crossing the Snow to get to Wonder Lake Seven.

Wonder Lake Seven.

Steve and Chewy hiking down.

After we picked up T we hiked back to Lower Lamark were T did some more fishing. Steve and I were the look outs and told T where to put his fly (he is a dry-fly fisherman). Again he kept catching fish! So different then last year.

The picture of the Wonder Lakes don't begin to do them justice. It was like seeing what heaven looks like.....minus the mosquitoes.

One of the people we were camping with was Dennis the fish whisperer. He works for fish and game and T and I met him last year through Steve and Vicki. The funny thing is that we realized early on that Dennis camps with really good friends of ours. Really good friends that we camp with too. Small world. So Dennis knew Steve and Vicki the camp host and ranger that befriended us last year AND our camping friends. For our camping trip this year we met up with one of our camping friends, Dennis the fish whisperer and Steve and Vicki. We were one big happy camping family.

One day T and the fish whisperer and I headed to Rock Creek Lake to do a little fishing. My grandmother had loved Rock Creek Lake and I wanted to check it out. We did a little hiking and the gentlemen fished, but we didn't get to explore as much as I would have liked to. Maybe next time.... Here are a few pictures from Rock Creek.

T looking for fish.

The last hike I did in the Eastern Sierra on this trip was to Long Lake. The fish whisperer, T and our friends hiked up there to do some fishing. I guess this was a popular trail because we passed a lot of people and there were a lot of people at Long Lake. The trail we were on leads to Bishop Pass and into the John Muir Wilderness. Again epic views and amazing weather. If this place wasn't under snow ten months out of the year I would never want to leave!
My first glimpse of Long Lake.

Waiting for the fish to bite.

The fishing crew.

T and I had a commitment to meet some friends in Cherry Lake (blog post coming soon) after we left the Eastern Sierra and he decided to try to get a hike and some fishing in the day before we left. Nobody else was up for the hike so T went alone to Treasure Lakes. Steve was planning on heading that direction later in the day so I wasn't worried. When T got back his shin was bloody and scraped up. It looked pretty bad. Turns out he was trying to get out to a rock to fish and slipped and fell. He said he didn't even feel his leg because he thought he broke his arm. Great. Fell. Alone. Broken arm? Turns out he didn't break his arm and he realized that when he finally stopped cussing because it was his casting arm and he continued to fish. Yep. continued to fish. Like any fisherman would do. Moral of the story... don't hike alone.

T and I left our friends at Four Jeffries and headed north to meet other friends at Cherry Lake on the other side of the Sierra. We planned to take the airstream over Tioga Pass and cross Yosemite for the first time. We were sad to leave but T said we would be back soon!