Lentil & Sausage Stew from Budget Bytes

This weekend flew by and I already need another one! The only thing I really remember is that I made a modified version of this soup from the Budget Bytes blog.


I think I will make some again over the weekend.

Try it out.
Lentil & Sausage Stew


Tahoe and back in 4 days

UPDATED: with photos and video!

Tahoe and back in four days might not seem like that big of a deal until you realize I live 10 (TEN) hours away from Tahoe and two of those four days are spent driving... and I think I did this trip about a month ago and was wondering why... but I digress! Lets talk about my latest Tahoe adventure.

T and I are lucky to have jobs that combine both Presidents Days' (Lincoln and Washington) into a single four day weekend! These four days gave us an opportunity to head up to Lake Tahoe to get in some more snowboarding. Here is how the weekend went:

Any time we drive to Tahoe, we take HWY 395. On our last trip we stayed with Ts' dad in Apple Valley the night before leaving and shaved an hour and a half off our trip. When we left at 5am (yes... 5am) we were on Hwy 395 before traffic and the sun. We did the same thing this time but T was feeling a little under the weather so I got to drive. We usually take Ts' truck because it has 4x4 drive and snow tires. Because we take his truck, I usually don't get a chance to drive. After a few trips of just sitting there, being a passenger, a road trip starts to not be as fun. BUT this last trip I got to drive a lot. We had snow on the drive up and chain control was posted before Mammoth. We drove by Mammoth at about 10:30 and both looked at each other.... we could be on the snow in 10 minutes we thought. But no, we were headed to Tahoe and had at least another 4 hours to go. The drive on 395 is always beautiful, even if it is snowing and a Prius thought it didn't need snow chains and is fishtailing in front of you for part of it.

We pulled into the Hope Valley Cafe about 3pm and had some homemade pie. I went with Peach a la mode and T had the Berry and Cream Cheese. Hope Valley Cafe is located at the junction of Hwy 88/89 and has beer, coffee, soups, salads and sandwiches. And PIE. Really good pie. We have stopped there before as the owner Lisa knows my Tahoe Uncle and T loves the pie and beer. With the snow falling and 10 hours on the road under our belt, the Hope Valley Cafe was our first slice of heaven in Tahoe.

The Tahoe Uncle was out of town this weekend and T and I were on our own. When we pulled up to the house there was 3 feet of snow on the driveway. This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but the Tahoe Uncle is very particular about his driveway. You can't walk on the snow because it creates ice. When he snow-blows the driveway he has a shovel and squeegee to make sure all the ice and moisture is OFF. We have helped with the driveway before and it is quite the ordeal. When T and I pulled up after our long drive, the last thing we wanted to worry about was the driveway... We looked at each other, the snow falling all around us, and suited up to clear the driveway.

The driveway turned into a comedy of errors that night. First the streets had not been plowed yet so there was tons of snow. Second, T was snow-blowing the driveway, which is really like rota-tilling the driveway, and it was still snowing. So each time he removed snow, more snow fell on the driveway. I would try to squeegee it and shovel it, but it just kept snowing. We finally decided that removing the 3 feet of snow and letting the new snow fall was what we were going to have to settle with. Then (third) a UPS truck came up the road and could not go down the street because it had not been plowed. The two guys in the truck asked if they could back into our freshly blown driveway to turn around. Sure... why not... except they got stuck and blocked the street for an hour. We helped them dig out the tires (they had chains) and pushed the truck until they were finally free. Then (fourth) we snowblowed the driveway AGAIN and parked the truck. I think it took about 4 hours (I forgot to mention that T also snowblowed the neighbors driveway as the Tahoe Uncle would have done)Then we went to dinner at The Divided Sky and when we can home the snowplow had been by and left a wall of snow 4 feet high at the entrance to the driveway! REALLY! Dirty Snowplow! The snow from the snowplow is not light, freshly fallen snow. The snow from the snowplow is the snow everyone has been driving over so it is really big blocks of broken up ice. And that was what was blocking the drive way. A wall of ice blocks. We tried to shovel it but had no luck. So T got out the snow blower again and spent 45 minutes clearing the wall of ice. Dirty snowplow.....

The next morning we wanted to be on the slopes when they opened at 8:30am. Up at 6am we looked out the window to a foot of fresh snow....sigh.... back to the driveway. The driveway is basically a three car driveway. The Tahoe Uncle has an over sized two car garage and then an RV garage next to it. We were parked in front of the two car garage and decided we were just going to do that part of the driveway that morning. We will do the complete driveway when we get home we told each other... And we were off!

Last year over Presidents' Day weekend is when I first learned to snowboard. I remember it had gotten pretty crowded which is why we wanted to get to Heavenly early. This weekend we were watching the weather as well. The storm that had left all that snow on the driveway had also closed down a Highway and created mandatory chain control on others. Wind advisories had shut down some of the lifts in the past and we wanted to make sure we wouldn't be stranded somewhere. We decided to take the Gondola up from Heavenly Village and I spent the day on The Big Easy. It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be and I jumped on the lift after each ride. I had a new personal best of 7 times down the hill without falling. SEVEN TIMES!!!!! I was ready for the next level, the blue level.

It had snowed a bit on the hill that day and the wind had been wicked cold. The sun had come out for a few hours but I was frozen on our way home. When we turned up my Uncles' street we saw a few driveways that were black. Look at those we yelled, black driveways.... It is funny how simple things like a black (not snow covered) driveway created this sense of longing in us. If only a black driveway was waiting for us.... AND IT WAS... kind of. The part of the driveway we had blown that morning had melted and the black driveway was showing through. It felt like Christmas when we pulled up. No snow blowing for us!

For dinner that night we headed to The Divided Sky. When the Tahoe Uncle is in town we might head to The Divided Sky for a meal or we eat in. On this trip T and I had all our dinners there. A kind of bar/ restaurant/ cafe/ music club, The Divided Sky is a local hangout for people who live in the Meyers area. Nights two and three found us sitting at the bar where we made friends with a local arborist and a couple flying to New Zealand the next day for a wedding. T liked the Red Chair Pilsner and we decided (after three nights) that our favorite sandwiches are the Big Dipper and the Estrada with Jalapenos. This place has great food, beer and atmosphere. I highly recommend it, just don't be in a hurry because sometimes your waiter is also the bartender and dishwasher....

Day three had the driveway cleared and us on the Gondola at Heavenly by 8:40am. I strapped on the snowboard and took the chair to my first blue run. Nervous, yes. I hate chairlifts and am not always the most graceful person exiting the chair but I seemed to do okay (barely) and was on my way down Samy's.

I think I will skip the play by play and give you the highlights. First, I had my worst wipe-out to date on this day. I am not sure how I did it but I managed to fall and tumble down the hill. Think 360 with the snowboard. It was bad. BUT I was lucky because all the snow I have been clearing off the driveway cushioned my fall and I was able to jump right up and keep boarding. I also did about 3 major face plants.... It wasn't that I all of a sudden sucked at snowboarding, it was just that I was pushing myself on the blue run and had a new learning curve. A learning curve that included eating a lot of snow. Here is a video of me early in the day. I am v e r y s l o w.... and fall but I think this was my first time down the blue run. I did get better.... eventually. Check out the view at the end!

My record for the day was making it down Samy's and only falling once. I also tried another run called Orion and fell a lot on that one. It was a much longer run but looking back I realized I snowboarded more than I fell and was getting better all day. This was my first time snowboarding in powder and that was a little challenging too. At the end of the day T said I was ready to keep up with the family...

All photos on this post are compliments of T!


Photos from the Lunar New Year Festival

On Saturday my sisters and I went to the local Tet Lunar New Year Festival in Garden Grove. I was surprised how big it was. This news write up about it estimates that over 100,000 people attended this year. We thought it was as big as the Gilroy Garlic Festival! After waiting in some major traffic, we made it in time to see the opening ceremony and enjoy some great food! Here is the official website and below are my pictures from the day.

The usual suspects

Miss Vietnam of Southern California

Tea House

Kids at the festival

Green Papaya Salad

The little sister took these during the opening ceremonies

Chicken Pho and the Girl Scout who delivered it

The crowd as we were leaving

Happy LUNAR New Year!


I am in LOVE with the Google Art Project

Wow. This is incredible. I was almost speechless when a coworker showed me this today. Some Google employees took their 20% time (the time Google lets it's employees work on personal projects) and came up with a way for everyone to be able to visit museums around the world. Using the "street view" technology and what they are calling “gigapixel photo-capturing technology", Google has made it so anyone can walk through these world famous museums and zoom in on some of the paintings.

Great job, Google. I am almost speechless.

Check it out!

Short write up about Google Art Project

The video explaining Google Art Project

The Google Art Project website