Cross Country Skiing Hope Valley

The outdoor adventures continued during Tahoe Xmas 2013 and we went Cross Country Skiing! Now, I don't ski. I am a big klutz and that is why I snowboard. Only one piece of equipment to worry about when you snowboard..... You worry about four pieces of equipment when you ski. This was another Middle Sister idea and we went to Hope Valley and rented Cross Country Skis. T took this picture of the family after about 30 minutes into our adventure. My mom stayed home and enjoyed some alone time.... but the rest of us gave cross-country skiing a try!

I am the third from the right in this picture, white vest with the hat. I look extra short in this photo becuase I am living in fear of falling yet again and am keeping my knees bent and weight forward. I was not very good at cross-country skiing. I fell six times during this adventure. And by the way, it is not easy to get up when you have skis on, but I seemed to find a technique. My Uncle G and Brad helped me with my cross-country technique. Eventually we left the woods and did some laps around a meadow. It was much easier to follow in someones tracks and work on my techniques there. T snapped this picture of us on about my third lap!

My sisters did much better than I did and my Aunt Jan took this picture of them.
And here are the two uncles and one of the cousins. They were by far the best at cross-country skiing and my cousin looks a little winded in this photo because she was trying to keep up with Uncle Brad as he did laps around the meadow. She did, and she got a good workout that day.
Over all the cross-country adventure was a good one. T said he would definately do it again and all of us were glad to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful day! I would recommend the place we used to rent our skis in Hope Valley. The website is http://hopevalleycrosscountry.com/ They were friendly, offered lessons, and are located in a beautiful spot.



One day at Heavenly

One day during Tahoe Xmas 2013 T and I went skiing at Heavenly with Uncle Brad, his girlfriend, and my Cousin Molly. They all ski and I snowboard. They are much better than I am, and it was my first day out this season. After a few runs with them, I told them to go on ahead and spent a little time on my own. I have mentioned before that I am not very good and this day was no different. I got a few good runs in but then my legs started getting tired and I started to fall. The last part of the run I was on was the steepest and I fell forward and was sliding down the hill on my belly looking like I was trying to make a snow angel. I am sure it looked pretty funny! I made it down the hill and was glad we only had one day of skiing in Tahoe this year. T took the picture above on the last run down the hill.



Hiking Vikingsholm, Emerald Bay State Park, Lake Tahoe

Happy Holidays! T, Samson, and I are in Lake Tahoe visiting family. This is our third time having Christmas in Lake Tahoe and you can read about the other trips HERE and HERE. My Uncle (Mom's brother) lives up here and her side of the family comes down from Seattle to meet us at the "halfway point" in Lake Tahoe. We have done this every other year for the last four years. Each trip has been very different and this time the Middle Sister had a few ideas of possible excursions around Lake Tahoe. One of them was this hike in Emerald Bay State Park to Vikingsholm.

There was some snow, but not very much, so snowboarding only happened on one day of the trip. On another day the cousins, sisters, and I headed out for this hike. There was some snow on the trail, and it was colder in the shade, but the hike was a good excuse to get out of the house.

The view of the lake was beautiful when we reached the bottom of the hike. The beach was covered in snow and the Vikingsholm house closed up for the season. We took a few pictures and then started the hike back up the hill.
I am a little surprised that we haven't explored more of Lake Tahoe on our holiday excursions. I guess it is because the last few times we waited for my Uncle, the Tahoe native, to suggest outings. He hasn't really done that and was more focused on skiing or talking computers and fishing with T. This year we came up with some ideas and the Middle Sister drove so we had an "escape pod". It was a good balance of "family time" and seeing a bit of Lake Tahoe. While the hike wasn't hard, long, or overwhelming, it did give us a bit of fresh air and a taste of the outdoors. I would do it again in a heartbeat!



Bodie State Park (CA)

About a month ago T and I took a trip to the Eastern Sierra (our second home it seems like) and the Fish Whisperer and his wife took us to check out Bodie State Park. Bodie State Park is a California ghost town and a state park of California. It is in what they call "arrested decay" and looks very much like it did 50 years ago when the last resident left.

It took us about 30 minutes to get to Bodie from Hwy 395. The first part of the road is paved, but soon you will find it slower going on a dirt road. The road closes during the winter due to snow.

I have driven by the road to Bodie numourous times and this was my first time visiting. Bodie was a gold-mining town in the 1800's and at one time had a popultion of 10,000 people! This website has a video of the road into Bodie and some other info.

This place is truely a "ghost town" with some park rangers living there year round. Walking around, it looks like people just walked away and left everything. I walked up to a few houses and looked in the windows. Inside was incredibly spooky. I was glad the sun was shining that day.
The photos here show the outside of the house and then the inside of the same house. I took all of these with my iPhone and have to say I was pretty impressed with the way they turned out.
The houses show class segregation and even race segregation when you get to the "China Town" area.
A true "wild west" town, at the peak of the populaiton 3-4 people died a week between the extreme weather, gun fights, or sexualy transmitted diseases from the red light district. Many children died in the harsh conditions of the town, but still it survived into the 1950's.
For more information about Bodie visit the CA State Park website or Bodie.com.



Consumed by books

Happy Thanksgiving! After the fabulous meal with family, I proceeded to pick up three books that consumed my life for the remainder of the holiday. Forget shopping. Thank goodness for pumpkin pie meals and turkey sandwiches, because I spent the weekend reading.

I think there might be a support group I should belong to. Books consume my life support group! Or, more accurately, sometimes books consume my life support group. The ironic thing is that I am currently a librarian. People assume books consume my life, but the truth is I rarely read during the semester. I am just too busy. But when the holidays come, I am lost in the books. I have been like this most of my life.

It might be hard for some to believe, but I had a bit of a reading problem as a young child. My mother took my sisters and I to the library and introduced me to the horse section when this was the case. I was into horses back then. I remember checking out the same book all summer long and after that I became a reader. I would hide in the bathroom for hours reading. I remember a time when my Mom had the policy of a minute of reading earned a minute of TV. The Little Sister and I earned about eight hours worth of TV by reading and then my Mom tried to change the policy to be that you couldn't watch all the TV at once, or something like that. My Little Sister and I can't remember what it was exactly, but we remember feeling like we had been had!

As I have gotten older I have had to compartmentalize my reading. Reading for school or work doesn't consume me. It is just something I need to do. It is easy to read a few chapters and go on with my life. But every once in a while a book will sink it's teeth into me and I can't let go.

A few years ago The Hunger Games did it. A friend had let me borrow it and she needed to return it to the library in a few days time. I had it all weekend and decided to start reading it Sunday night about 10pm. At 4am I finally put it down, woke up at 5am, and finished reading it before work at 8am. It consumed me. I couldn't stop reading it.

This happened again to me over the holiday weekend. I started reading a book at 9pm and finished it at 5am. I guess it is a good thing I am a fast reader. I then passed the book on to the Little Sister and we both read a trilogy over Thanksgiving. The books consumed both of us.

So I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. The books reading happens at a time in my life when I get to relax. I am very good with organizing my time and getting things done if I need to. The book consumption seems to happen when I have the time to let it happen.

Luck for me I have another trilogy lined up for Christmas!


Sister's Napa trip (day 3-4)

Part one of this adventure can be found at Sister's Napa trip (day 1-2).

Day 3 of the Sister's Napa trip had our first winery reservation at 11am so we had a morning to enjoy. I woke up and went for a run. I like to run in the morning when I travel. It gives me a chance to explore a place before anyone is up. This morning was no different and found myself in downtown Napa running up and down the streets. I stopped to take a picture of the sunrise through a bridge when the sisters called and told me to meet them at Oxbow Market for breakfast, they were walking into town. After breakfast I ran back to the house to take a shower and after a stop at Whole Foods for snack for the day, we were on our way.

Our first stop was the Black Stallion Winery. I think I might of picked this one based on my love of The Black Stallion movies when I was a kid. I loved those movies! The winery was beautiful and the wines were okay. I bought my only wine on this trip from The Black Stallion winery. I asked if the winery was named after the mvovie and was told it was named Black Stallion because the location used to be an equestrian center. That makes sence, but I think it would have been better to be named after the move...

Next we went to Paraduxx for a tour and tasting. As I am remembering it, I think we tried to visit three wineries each day and we booked one tour a day a one of those wineries. Paraduxx was our tour on the second day. The tour was fine, but our tour at Longmeadow Ranch was much better in my opinion. The tasting at Paraduxx was fun. It was in a private room with our tour guide and included cheese and chocolate!

Our final tasting was at Turnbull Wine Cellars. The owner had a fabulous collection older photographs displayed including some Ansel Adams. I spent most of my time at this winery looking at the art. I did eventually taste some wine and the gentllman who helped us was pretty funny.

That night we had dinner at Oenotri. We had been eating (and drinking) so much that I was not very hungry and had some sort of pasta dish. I know. I am sorry I can't remember what it was! And I love food! It was good, and I wished I could have ordered more food, but I was ready to burst by this point. When we discussed places to eat with locals we ran into, Oenotri was always one of the recommendations we got. It was on our food list too, and I woudl eat there again.

The next day we started our trip home with a stop at Model Bakery for those amazing english muffins and a few epi rolls for the drive home. We had a great time and really enjoyed getting to see a bit of the famous Napa Valley. I think we would visit again and I think we should go during this time of year. The weather was crisp, the grape leaves turning brillant colors, and the foods we ate reflected those comfort foods I think about in late fall. It was a great adventure!




Sister's Napa Trip (day 1-2)

For Veteran's Day weekend the sisters and I headed up to Napa, CA for the first time. It seems a little surprising because we love wine and we live in California, but some how, even when the Little Sister lived in Santa Rosa, we just never made this trip. But all that changed Veteran's Day weekend when the Little Sister informed us it was time for a trip to Napa. She actually informed us a month ago and we had been planning the trip for a few weeks.
Preparation for the trip included narrowing down which of the 500+ wineries we should visit, where to eat, and where to stay. Surprisingly the narrowing down of wineries was the first thing we accomplished. We had some help from the September issue of Food and Wine which highlighted some wineries and then the sisters had some places they wanted to check out. Next we found a house to rent on VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and made a rough outline of some potential places to eat. The week before the Middle Sister made up an itinerary and at 6am on Friday morning we started the trip to Napa.

We arrived in Napa a little after 2pm and made our way to the Oxbow Public Market. Our first impression was that it was very much like the Ferry Building in San Francisco. There were lots of little food-ish shops inside and a few restaurants. We walked around a bit and then each ordered something to eat. The Middle Sister and I went for tacos from C Casa and the Little Sister got some oysters from the Hog Island Oyster Bar. For the tacos I had a steak taco and a lamb taco. The lamb taco was the winner of the two. The Middle Sister had some sort of white bean taco and some veggie slaw. We both said the tacos were good, but not as good as the places we get tacos close to home. We used to like Taco Asylum for their innovative tacos, but the prices went up and the tacos got much smaller so we don't really go there anymore. Especially when we can grab great Vietnamese food at East Borough! Mmmmmm East Borough..... Sorry, I got distracted. Where was I? Oh yes, Napa at Oxbow Public Market. The Little Sister got six raw oysters from Hog Island Oyster Bar and really enjoyed them! She also got the English Muffin from The Model Bakery and it was incredible!
About 4pm we headed to the house we rented on VRBO. It was called the "Valencia House" and when I was trying to find a place to stay it was one of the few homes available. It was an older house, but was clean and fit our needs. Here is the listing on VRBO if you want to see some pictures.

We moved into the house and were in this limbo because we wanted to go eat dinner but were full from our snacks at the Oxbow Market. The little sister had a movie called Blood into Wine and we decided to watch it before heading out for dinner. The movie was a good segway into our wine weekend as it focused on wine making in Arizona. It is a documentary and the sisters and I enjoyed it. For dinner we tried Kitchen Door. I was not hungry and ended up having wine and chocolate pudding for dinner. The Little Sister had the Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich and the Middle Sister had the special chantrell pizza without the bacon. The restaurant was cute and attached to the Oxbow Market, but the sisters and I agree, we probably wouldn't go back there. We thought it was okay, but we were looking for amazing. Maybe the Napa hype had tainted us and we were holding it to a higher standard? Maybe we had evolved in our own cooking so much that if we could make something better at home, we were not going to be impressed. Maybe we needed to order something else on the menu? Probably a combination of all these things....

Saturday morning started with a trip to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. This was a food stop on the list and it wasn't until we were eating our quiche and chocolate croissants that I learned it was a Thomas Keller restaurant. He is a famous chef if you are into those kinds of things. We walked around Yountville and then made our way to Chateau Montelena. Chateau Montelena made the list because we love the movie Bottle Shock and wanted to see the winery it was based on. The estate was beautiful and we were lucky to see some river otters on our way in. I didn't taste here but my sisters did and bought a bottle. Unfortunately we did not get to linger as long as we wanted to because we had made a reservation for a winery tour at Long Meadow Ranch Winery and were soon on our way.
We arrived at Long Meadow and soon realized we had a miscommunication about the time of the tour. We were a little bummed but Rebecca at Longmeadow just added us to the 4:30pm tour and then we decided to check out Beringer when we saw the wine and chocloate pairing!
Now I should maybe mention that my Uncle Joe likes Beriger wine and brings a bottle of Pinot Grigio to every event that involves food. I prefer red over white wines and have always thought of Beringer as White Zinfandel or my Uncle Joe's Pinot Grigio. It was the chocolate that brought me in and I was happy to try some Beringer wines I had never tried before. The grounds were beautiful and the chocolate and wine pairing were very fun. I split a tasting with the Middle Sister and then we all enjoyed exploring Beringer.
Our next stop was Farmstead for lunch at the Long Meadow Ranch Winery. This was an other food stop on the list and I can say it was one of the top ten meals in my life. We stated with fried green tomatoes with an aioli and wood grilled pardon peppers with sea salt. For mains I had the apple cider pork chop over jalepeno grits with brussel sproats and a cider chutney. The Little Sister had the best burger I have ever eaten and she added a fried egg on top and the Middle Sister had the most amazing beet salad. For dessert we had the grilled carrot cake and the chocoalte pudding pie. At least I think it was a chocolate pudding pie. It was FABULOUS! The youngest sister is on a no sugar thing right now and I told her that this dessert was worth the one bite! She agreed it was.

Soon after our late lunch we started our Mayacamas Estate Visit at Long Meadow Ranch. I am not sure how the sisters found this one (maybe the Food and Wine article) but we booked this tour and learned all about Long Meadow Ranch. This place was AMAZING! First, they have been organic and all those other buzz words since the 80's. The winery is built into a mountain so the wine is kept at a perfect temperature all the time. It is called rammed earth construction. There motto is Excellence through Responsible Farming and they practice what they preach. I could go on and on about how amazing this winery is but I encourage you to read it on their website HERE. They are an amazing company.

Rebecca was our tour guide and we were with five ladies from Texas who were so much fun. We toured the estate and farms. We learned about the olive oil production and the architecture of the place. At the end of the tour we had a wine and olive oil tasting. It was a fabulous way to end our second day in Napa!

Coming soon: Sister's Napa Trip (day 3-4)


Instant Karma: Running

Funny running story.

The Middle Sister and I run at least twice a week. We take our neighbor's dog Eddie and we go EARLY, as in 5:30am. Daylight savings has us running with the sunrise currently and that is nice.

My story takes place last Thursday when we were on the last third of our run. My sister has this thing that she will speed up if she is planning on stopping. We have certain places we stop when we run and we have been trying to push ourselves to go further. She was speeding up and I started giving her a hard time and tripped on my own pants and ended up doing some sort of judo roll onto my back in the dirt on the river trail. I was on my back with the dog trying to save me when she came back.

Instant karma.

After we made sure nothing was broken and I was able to get to my feet and make sure I wasn't bleeding too badly, we walked it off and I made it home.

The power of instant karma was pretty potent that morning and it made me think about what life would be like if we had instant karma all the time! I hope I could avoid tripping on my pants.



Boo to day light savings!

If you have been around this blog this time of year, you know that the "Fall Back" daylight savings day is one of my least liked days. I lament sunsets happening so early and generally hate the shortening of days and daylight! It affects me. Maybe I am S.A.D.? Who knows.

But this year I was having a hard time with my rant about day-light savings.

It started with sleeping in on Sunday. And then Sunday was a really nice day. And I had to pick my sister up from the airport so that distracted me from the early sunset. And Monday I was up early to take my car in. And then Tuesday I went running at 5:30am with the Middle Sister and it was light outside. Well, much lighter than it has been and I started to think that maybe I don't loath Fall Back as much as I used to.

And then I thought, I'm old.

Now four days later I had some time to think about it and I realized a few things.

My life has changed. I still watch sunsets but I work late and go to bed earlier so the night life I used to have doesn't really exist during the week.

I get up early. At an hour that I can't believe sometimes, to work out. Be it running, Shredding, or P90X, I get up early to work out. I also sleep 7-8 hours a night. Which is part of the early to bed, early to rise situation.

And, I am getting older. And I do like running when the sun is coming up. I realized that over the last few years I have seen more sunrises than sunsets. And while I am not a morning person, I can see that there has been a shift in how I spend my days.

And because of that it took me four days to remember that I do not like day-light savings and am ready to join Hawaii and Arizona and just stop doing it. Come on California! Forget the the Fall Back and Spring Forward! Lets just have sunrise and sunsets tell us what time it is!


Zac Brown Band at the Hollywood Bowl

The last concert I went to was the Dave Matthews Band in 2005. A number of years ago...... A friend was getting married and I was in her wedding. She was a great bride and the only rule was we needed to wear black. I was living in San Luis Obispo at the time and went to San Francisco to visit her and shop for a dress. As luck would have it, her soon to be husband had a job that got tickets to a number of concerts and the weekend I was up there they had tickets to the Dave Matthews Band. We arrived and the opening act was the Blackeyed Peas! I was a fan of both bands and danced all night. We had great tickets and it was a fabulous show.

After that the only concerts I went to were "Concerts in the Park". No big deal. They weren't on my radar. So I was a little surprised when T called me on Thursday as I was driving to a conference to ask if I wanted to see Zac Brown Band at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday. He explained that he liked the Zac Brown Band and had never been to a show at the Hollywood Bowl. I hadn't either. After a little discussion the plan was to see if he could get tickets and if so we would drive to LA when I got back from my conference. The traffic gods smiled on me and I was home by 4pm on Friday. T got home soon after and we headed into LA.

If you don't live in Southern California you might not think anything of this, but if you understand LA traffic, you would feel like we did; that this drive could take up to four hours. We were ready to sit in traffic and were amazed when we made it to the Hollywood Bowl in about an hour and a half. We then parked in Lot D and made our way into the bowl. There were people picnicking and tailgating as we walked over. Lots of cowboy boots and cowboy hats. As this was a last minute adventure we didn't really plan for a picnic or even really understand how the Hollywood Bowl worked, but we quickly learned.

There are places to eat, drink, and order food in the Bowl area once you have entered. We surveyed our options and went with a burger and fires and some beer. Prices were beyond Disneyland expensive but they had some good beer options and it was the Hollywood Bowl, so we kind of expected it.

T had gotten our tickets on Stubhub and done some research when looking at his options. We were in J1 Row1 Seats 1&3. What that translates to is front row, aisle seats, in the wooden bleachers behind the box seats. When we found them we were very happy. They were great seats!

There were two opening acts that were okay. They are on the Zac Brown label, Southern Ground and were the AJ Ghent Band and Dugas. As these bands were playing more and more people kept coming in. I think the show might have been sold out. It seemed packed by the time the Zac Brown Band came on.

When the show started the band sounded really good. I wanted to jump up and dance but felt self-conscious because no one else in our section was standing. Then I started having this sinking feeling that maybe the Hollywood Bowl wasn't the kind of place you got to stand up and enjoy your concert. Maybe I would have to sit through it.....

I kept looking around and seeing different groups of people sitting and then other groups standing. I didn't want to stand in front of the people behind me so for the first three songs I stayed seated and kind of danced in my seat. Then the band did a cover of Metallica's Enter Sandman and the place exploded! Everyone was on their feet dancing and singing. From that moment on the concert was outstanding. The band was excellent live, better than any album I heard. They had guests and covered a few songs. One of the musicians proposed to his girlfriend on stage and Sarah Dugas from Dugas sang At Last as they danced together. The trumpet player Rashawn Ross from the Dave Matthews band joined them for a cover of Under the Table and Dreaming and Jason Mraz sang two songs with the group. Their encore ended with the Devil went down to Georgia and T and I very impressed with the Hollywood Bowl and the Zac Brown Band! It was an amazing night!



October Pumpkin Patch Visit

The last time I visited a Pumpkin Patch was in my college days in 2001. I remember the day well. I was living in San Luis Obispo and T and my friend Betsy (we ended up being friends because we were both named Elizabeth!) and I went to the Avila Valley Barn. It was a Saturday in October. We were all photography majors, so we went looking for pumpkins and photos. The weather was crisp but warm. The afternoon light created a warm glow across the pumpkin patches. We took a hay ride through the farm and picked our pumpkins. It was a great day and I was happy to spend it with T and Betsy.

As a child I have memories of visiting a pumpkin patch. I grew up in Riverside, CA and the Riverside of my youth was very much geared toward agriculture. Our housing track was surrounded by orange groves, my parents had a spectacular garden, and a little place called Dois Farm is were we would get our pumpkins for Halloween. I even remember taking a field trip there in Elementary School.

Each of these places were farms. A place where I would walk through a true pumpkin patch looking for a pumpkin. There would be rows and rows of pumpkins on their vines and the search and the day would become a happy fall memory. When I moved from San Luis Obispo the pop up pumpkin patches that I saw next to the strip malls just didn't inspire me to hunt for the perfect pumpkin. And the truth is that it was kind of an unconscious decision. I didn't realize I was avoiding pumpkin patches until the Middle Sister decided we should go find some pumpkins this fall.
And that is how I found myself at the Johnson Brothers Pumpkin Patch at Irvine Valley College (IVC) on Saturday morning with my sisters. The urban pumpkin patch offers more than just pumpkins. There are pony rides and petting zoos, bounce houses and places for photos.
And of course, pumpkins. Lots of them. In any size your want. Even great pumpkins!
The sisters were on the hunt for a pumpkin and eventually found what they were looking for.
We were able to head out with our pumpkins before the urban pumpkin patch could start up the bounce house or cotton candy machine. While it was nothing like the pumpkin patch farms I prefer, it was a nice sister adventure on a Saturday morning. The sisters have decorated their front porch with multiple pumpkins and some butternut squash from our Mom's garden. I took some small pumpkins and added them to our entry way for a little fall flavor. 

I guess at the end of the day it doesn't really matter if you get your pumpkins at an urban patch or farm. What really matters is who you spent the day with and the memories you make together. Happy Fall!


Home Detail: Orchid Wall

It's the little details that make a house a home.  The little details that make it function, fun to be in, and mostly a sanctuary.  I have little details in our home that make my heart smile when I see them. 
It's little, but I love my Orchid Wall.  I call it the Orchid Wall, but really it is just the fence with a few boards on it that T put up for me so I could have a place for some of my plants on our patio.

We live in a townhouse with a cement patio for a backyard.  HERE is the layout if you are interested.  When we first moved in we built a patio cover over the patio.  We did it for storage reasons, and I was sad I couldn't have a container garden back there with the lack of direct sun.  We put a white-ish plastic roof on it and enclosed the patio with bamboo so Samson couldn't escape.  Our neighbors called it the tiki room when we finished.  When everything was said and done I realized our patio was a great place for my orchids and came up with an idea to use the fence to display them.
The Orchid Wall wasn't a big deal, but it has made the patio.  I attached lights under the boards and T and I eat many meals out here.  At night the lights are enchanting.  In the morning, the orchids greet us for breakfast.  I love to be in the patio when it rains and our neighbors all come over now and tell me how much they like it.  I am even helped a few of them work on their patios this past summer. Here is a photo with the two orange chairs I scored and Sampson with the Orchid Wall:
And while I feel like there are a lot more things I would like to do with the patio, the Orchid Wall is one of the details I got right.

Do you have a house detail you love?  Share it with me in the comments so I can be inspired to try something new!