Monday, June 29, 2009

Incline Village, NV

Dave's family all have timeshares at a Club Tahoe and recently his sister and BIL offered us theirs for their week since they couldn't use it. We happily accepted and started making plans. We left Boise on Friday June 12th and drove to Winnemucca where we had breakfast at The Griddle which was pretty good. From there we drove straight to the condo and arrive just in time to check in. After unloading the car and getting settled, we decided on a local small place that had rotisserie meat cooking and the best burritos I've ever had. Their salsa was so good we even bought some to have back at the condo with chips I had bought. On Saturday, we drove all the way to the north end of the lake to Tahoe City and had breakfast at The Fire Sign Cafe which was excellent. From there we visited the dam and took a nice nature walk through the park. We drove back to the condo, picked up a movie for the night at the Redbox and then later went to dinner at Cal-Neva which was disappointing. Sunday we headed over to South Shore and rode the Heavenly Gondola which had incredible views of Lake Tahoe and South Shore. We sat outside, had a beer and waited to see if anyone was going to ride the zip line but there were apparenly thunderstorms in the area so it was closed. There was also an outdoor mall which had tons of great shopping. From there, we found the Rainbow Trail which was a nice walk and had a cool fish display. The weather was looking a little questionable, but I was determined to see more while we were on the South Shore so we went ahead and drove to Angora Lakes to do another hike. It was amazing. You park at the bottom of the trail and walk up about 2 miles and there are 2 goregous lakes and even cabins for rent. After that we went to the outlet mall and did some shopping. Since we were starting to get hungry, we decided to go to one of the large casinos for a buffet dinner. We decided on Harrah's and we weren't disappointed. The food was amazing, the price reasonable and the service outstanding though we did have to wait for about 45 minutes. With full bellies we drove back to the Condo and had a nice fire and watched another movie.

On Monday, we spent a lazy day in and went to dinner at La Fondue which was a lot of fun and very delicious. We also walked around the Hyatt which is right on the Lake and took a drive along Lakeshore drive where there are beautiful homes along the beach. On Tuesday, we were taking Aaron to visit his Dad who lives in Sparks and we took the long way through Carson City so I could visit the Trader Joe's. I spent over an hour there and bought lots of goodies to bring home. I was so glad we had the car so I could stock up! After we dropped off Aaron, we had lunch at a casino and then Dave let me do some shoe shopping at my favorite store DSW. We headed back to Tahoe via 431 which is a beautiful drive past Mt. Rose. Since we weren't too hungry because we ate a late lunch, we went back to T's Rottisserie for burritos for dinner. On Wednesday, we went to the breakfast buffet at Harrah's and then took a long walk along Lakeshore. For our adventure, we drove to a hiking trail and visited Chimney beach (pictured above) which was amazing.

On Thursday, we had lunch at Austin's which was recommend to us by everyone and it did not disappoint! Wonderful chicken fried chicken and chicken fried steak smothered in homemade delicious gravy and their famous garlic fries. After lunch we went back to the condo and got ready for a day at the beach. All week the weather was getting warmer and Thursday was a perfect day. Though it was only in the lower 70's it felt like it was 90. We spent the afternoon reading and relaxing and enjoying the bikes, kayakers and boarders on Lake Tahoe. For dinner, we went to a local favorite, the Wild Alaskan a surprisingly good place that had wonderful Thai Fish Soup that Dave loved.

On Friday, it was time to pack up and head home. Club Tahoe was amazing and we enjoyed it very much. The club house had a pool table which we played almost every day, a pool, spa and even a bar. The staff was very friendly and helpful and they even had a large binder of local restaurant menu's.

Full album of pictures here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

McCall Winter Carnival

Last year, we went to the McCall Winter Carnival on the 2nd weekend of the festival, so this year we figured we would go when all the action was. We took off work and school on Friday, packed up all the electronics, people and dogs and were headed north by 11:30am. On the way, we stopped at McDonalds and had lunch. Normally, we NEVER eat fast food, but we were on vacation and needed a quick bite. When we got to Cascade we turned off and drove all through Tamarack, a beautiful resort and dreamed of buying a second home or property.

We arrived at the AmericInn just around check in time and right before cookies were served! We love this hotel because they are dog friendly and have a nice indoor pool and hot tub that Aaron and I use when we're not out around town. We unpacked, then went to Chapala's for dinner, then watched the Children's Parade and a spectacular fireworks show for the opening ceremonies. It was cold out, but we all had pretty good clothing, so we were mostly warm. After the fireworks, we headed back to the hotel where Aaron and I promplty put our swimsuits and headed to the pool and hot tub for a relaxing soak.

Saturday morning we all slept late and rush to catch breakfast at the hotel and then we got bundled up to head out for the parade. We found a parking spot pretty easily and walked the couple of blocks to Main street and got a great spot to watch the parade. It was terrific! The dogs got a little cold sitting in their stroller, so Dave and I held them and they kept us toasty. Aaron was running around catching candy and watching the parade up close and had fun also. After the parade, we walked around town a bit and then got some great noodles at the festival. Aaron and I shared some funnel cakes (our favorite fair/festival ritual) and we walked out on the frozen lake and let the girls run off leash. We walked around a few hours and then headed back to the hotel for a few hours of rest before our big prime rib dinner at the Mill.

Sunday morning we got up and this time took our time at the wonderful breakfast at the hotel, got packed up and then went to the craft festival. We also drove around town and looked at some of the sculptures we missed the day before when we were on foot. We headed south on a side road and admired more of the subdivisions and homes.

When we got home, we quickly unpacked and settled into our jammies to watch the Super Bowl. It was a great weekend!! Full picture album here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cooking with the Freezer

I've had this blog post on my to do list for months but I've not had the time to just sit down and write out all my thoughts, so today, as part of my efforts to get things done, I'm doing it.

A year after I moved in with Dave, we had 3 boys (7, 11 & 15) to feed. Dave had a nice big freezer out in the garage and not much in it. As I was learning about things to cook I found a Yahoogroup about freezing. It was great. I learned you could freeze all kinds of things. Fast forward 7 years later and there is only 1 boy at home, but food prices have gone crazy and time is always limited to spend in the kitchen and shopping. So, I use my freezer for tons of stuff. I pre-make Fix, Freeze & Feast meals and I also pre-do a lot of ingredients that go into meals. Here are some of the things I freeze:

cream (1 cup batches)
homemade cream of mushroom soup (1 sandwich size bag full)
chopped onions
chopped bell peppers
cooked in the crockpot black and pinto beans
rice (brown jasmine, jasmine and long grain brown)
Spaghetti sauce (made in a 2 1/2 gallon batch)
pineapple juice
meat (ground beef, ground turkey, pork chops, stew meat, chicken, ham & sausage)
sliced carrots
chopped celery
homemade beef broth/stock
Pre-cooked ground beef with onions
Tomato sauce & diced tomatoes (packaged in 2 cup portions from a #10 can)
Leftover soups, stews & chilli
Meatloafs - batch of 3
Mashed potatoes (make 20 lbs and flash freeze ice cream scoop portions, then bag)
Meatballs (using 8 lbs of meat)
Lasagnas (using pre-made spaghetti sauce & precooked ground beef from another day)
meals made with SIL in 1 day cooking sessions (usually 20-30 meals @ <$5 each)

Having all these items handy in the freezers does a lot for me. It saves me money for sure. I'm able to buy things when they are on sale and buy larger portions (always check your prices, larger isn't always cheaper!) and re-package into smaller sizes. I only have to go to the grocery store every 2-3 weeks. This saves me time, money and stress. It also allows me a lot of flexibiltiy of what I can make at any given time. Between my freezer and pantry, I can make almost anything. If I do want to make something that requires a special item, I put it on my grocery list and get it the next time I go. I love to see how long I can last between trips to the store. I don't mind grocery shopping, but it's certainly not how I like to spend my time. I also do a lot of meal planning and recipe searching. I use MasterCook to organize all my recipes and I subscribe to quite a few cooking blogs for new ideas. I also use my crockpot at least once a week. I also keep a typed list on the front of the freezer door with the contents of each shelf listed, that way I don't forget about stuff I have in there and forget to use it before it gets freezer burned. I have a Foodsaver, but you'd be amazed how well things last in freezer zip lock bags or tupperware.

Think about what you can do to make your life easier in preparing homecooked, healthy meals for your family, it's really a lot of fun. Email me with any questions, I'd love to share recipes or tips and tricks!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Confessions of a Hoarder

I've always been a little obsessive compulsive. I knew it was weird when I was a kid and I used to have a digital clock and I had to keep track of how many minutes I watch turn over each day and how many hours I watched change. I also used to write down the weather temperatures each night from the evening news. I wasn't especially tidy until I got in my 20's. When my Mom used to visit me, she used to clean and that, for some reason bothered me. Now I wish she would come and clean my house. I had too much pride to appreciate it when I was younger and just getting started with my first apartment and eventually a house. Now my friends call me "anal" and all say how clean my house is. I don't think it is as clean as I would like it to be, which probably is another indicator I have a problem.

Growing up, we always had enough. Aside from the time when we left the Bay Area and moved to the property in Garden Valley and Leo was unemployed for a while, I don't remember us ever being really poor. My step-dad was a sheet metal worker and frequently was laid off or worked less hours in the winter months. I remember my Mom always shopping and stocking up when he was working to help tide is into the non-working months. I say this is how it got started.

As I've gotten older and had more money, I find that I am still "stocking up" but so far there has only been 1 time in my life when I've needed to use this supply. Needless to say, I have much more than I can possibly use in a reasonable amount of time of lots of things. Living in Idaho where the LDS population is quite large, I find myself saying that I'm just doing "food storage" or collection for an emergency, but really, I just buy too much. I seem to not feel safe if I don't have a good supply of something and then a backup supply. Before I even run out of something, I add it to my list and frequently there is a new supply before I even run out. It is rare that we run out of something in my house.

When I first moved in with Dave and his boys, I tried to monitor the supply on what everyone used. This was crazy. I couldn't possibly keep up with 5 people's consumption and the teenagers ever changing tastes. So, as of 2 years ago, I adopted the policy of - if you use the last of something, either 1) notify me 2) leave the package out or 3) write on the list (fridge). This has worked quite well for everyone and we still rarely run out of anything. And I stress a lot less.

But here's where it gets weird. I have sooo much shampoo. I do wash my hair every day and I do have thick hair, but I must have years and years worth of shampoo. Why? I do remember when I moved out on my own that someone told me it was good to rotate the shampoo you use on your hair. So I had 3 or 4 kinds in the shower and rotated using them. Now I live in a home where the shower is a phone booth, so there is certainly not room for a selection. So all the shampoos and conditioners sit on the large garden tub, daunting me. I think I've been trying to "use up" what I have for almost 3 years. I also collect hotel soaps and shampoos. Why? I don't take them with me on trips because I'll be at another hotel that has more or staying at someone's house that has shampoo (I like to try other's people stuff!) so I never use them. I've recently started using the little soaps in place of my more favored body wash (which I also have a ton of) and still have a huge pile of soaps. I did manage to use up a lot of the little shampoo containers but then feel bad about throwing away all the plastic bottles.

I also have waaaayyy to much scrapbooking stuff (see above pic), linens (not really my fault, because we have all mine AND Dave's), tupperware (see previous reason), clothes, shoes, earrings, razors, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.

I do think it's a good idea to have stuff stocked up, especially food. You never know when a natural disaster, illness or a lay off can happen and you'll be glad you have lots of things already paid for in your home. But I do think I need to question almost every purchase I make and be sure I need it and have a place to store it. I love having lots of stuff, but I also hate the feeling of clutter and overwhelming amounts of stuff. It's all about moderation, right?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pepper and Chloe - Our Girls

When Dave and I met in 2001, I thought we might have a child together. I had Aaron, who was then 6 and he had 2 more boys, then 10 & 14. We quickly decided that the 3 boys were going to be plenty for us! So, in 2004 we got our first baby girl, Pepper. We "met" her when she was 4 weeks old at a local Havanese breeder. She was the last one available in the litter and we immediately put down a deposit on her. I went to visit her every day and she was just a joy. I had bought a stuffed dog toy a few months prior and that became her "baby" which we put in with all the puppies and her mama so she could always have a piece of her family. When she was 6 weeks old (and still nursing!) her little collar was still too big for her and I begged the breeder to let her stay a few more weeks but he insisted she would be fine. So, excited beyond description I headed there with her baby and my cool dog carrying bag. I put her in the bag and put her on the front passenger seat and she promptly cried her little head off. I then unzipped the top of bag and she stood up and snorted like a little pig. It was so sad, she was missing her family. I tried to comfort her, but she just wailed. By the time we got home, she totally sacked out and took a big nap in the middle of her blanket. The first night, I put her in her crate beside my bed and spent most of the night with my hand through the wire door. She did very good and only cried when she needed to go out. I hung a small bell by the back door and each time I took her out, I hit it with her paw. Within a week, she was hitting it herself to go out and to this day still uses that as her signal to go out. After a few nights, Dave said she should be able to sleep on the bed with us. And today, she still does.

When Pepper was 2, she was kind of apathetic and didn't really do much and I really wondered if she was lonely. She also had almost no interest in eating and only ate her kibble every 3-4 days. Around the same time, I became involved with an online Havanese Rescue Yahoo Group. I had signed up to be a rescue contact in Idaho since there were none and so did another lady that had Havanese. Soon, I did a home visit for a third woman who had signed up and then I needed my home visit done. Heather was the one assigned to do that and we quickly became friends. It turned out she had Peppers sister from a different little and another Havanese as well as a German Shephard. She was heading to Bend, Oregon the next week to get a 3rd Havanese from Hystyle Havanese and let me know there was another puppy available in the litter. She also raw fed her dogs, something I had been looking into due to Pepper's lack of luster for her kibble.

Well, Dave and I decided we had to have this little cream Havanese, then named Q-T-Pie. Heather went and got her and her own Tootsie Pop 2 weeks later. By now, Aaron was 11 and very much wanted to be friends with Pepper, but their relationship had started off a big rocky because Aaron was too rough with her when she was little. And Pepper was never really a cuddler, or lap dog. She would sit by you, but not on you and didn't enjoy being held. From the moment Chloe came, Aaron held her and carried her around like a baby, which she still enjoys today. Pepper immediately shared her toys, her bed and her Mom and Dad like the good dog she has always been. Chloe came from a breeder who raw fed, so I switched Pepper and Chloe has never had kibble. Both my dogs LOVE to eat every day and their coats and skin are wonderful and I believe they are very healthy. Each day I feed them a raw chicken wing, a 1/4 of a sirloin patty (from Costco), some rehydrated veggies and Nupro powder. I also give them organ meat and occasionally some rice.

Like all Havanese, they like to shred and play "run like hell", espeically in the snow. They go most places with us and if they can't go, they stay with Auntie Heather and their sisters. Pepper and Chloe have brought immense joy to our blended family. To them we are Mom and Dad and all the boys are their brothers. They bridge the gap of "theirs" and "ours" and love everyone the same. Yes, having dogs are a lot of work, they require time, love, attention, money, feeding, walking, grooming, brushing and a huge commitment, but they are worth every bit of effort.

The dogs also have thier own website

Friday, August 22, 2008

Trip to CA

Both Dave and I are from the Bay Area and most of our family is still down there. I love to visit at least once a year so that Aaron can see his family and we can also see all the wonderful things that the beautiful state has to offer. On Friday, August 8th we set out towards Folsom, CA to attend my 20 year high school reunion. The drive was uneventful and the MDX was full of gadgets and while Dave was driving, Aaron and I had plenty of electronics to keep us busy. I mostly watched videos on my ipod touch while Aaron played the PS2 and did some web surfing on the laptop. Dave was stuck listening to music on the 80 gig video ipod.

We arrived in Folsom and got checked into the Lake Natoma Inn, showered and headed to the Happy Hour event at Yagers. There I saw classmates that I've known since the 3rd grade but most that I haven't talked to in 20 years. It was a lot of fun!

Saturday we checked out of the hotel and headed to Dave's Mom's house in Saratoga, CA. We relaxed most of the weekend outside on the patio and Aaron played in the pool. Monday, Dave's Mom and I headed to the gym and then went out shopping. She took me to Nordstrom Rack and then a wonderful shoe haven called DSW. I loved both and bought a few things for great prices.

On Tuesday, we headed to San Francisco and spent a wonderful day in the city. I had purchased CityPass tickets for all of us ahead of time so we had a bunch to do! We took the CalTrain to SF and then rode a bus to the piers. We had lunch at Fog Harbor and walked around the various shops. We then took a cruise over to Alcatraz and visited the famous "Rock". After that, we caught a bus and raced over to the Exploratorium which closed shortly after we arrived. We then headed to Ghiradelli Square and had huge sundae's and milkshakes. We then headed back towards the wharf Dave got some crab sandwiches along the seafood row. Aaron found the Musee Mecanique and we spent some time there. We missed the Boudin sourdough tour, but we had done that before. As it started to cool and then sun went down and the tourists started to leave we headed to the aquarium which was open later than any of the other places we visited and was indoors. When we finished the aquarium, we caught a bus back to the CalTrain station and then headed back south. We arrived back at 10:30p making for a long day in the city, but it sure was a lot of fun!

On Wednesday, we headed north again, but only to Belmont where my Nanney (maternal grandmother) lives. I had finally completed her digital scrapbook after 3 years of collecting photos, scanning them and then compiling a 100 page book spanning almost 100 years. It includes her and my grandfather's acestors, their 3 children (my mom), 7 grandchildren (me), 4 great grand children (Aaron) and 1 great-great grand baby born last year. It was a beautiful work of art and I was very proud to present it to her. We headed to lunch at Mimi's and then talked and visited for a few hours. That night, we met up with one of Dave's friends, his girlfriend and her son and went to a wonderful italian place on Santana Row called Maggiano's. Huge portions, great service and spectacular food!

Thursday we headed to Apple headquarters where we visited the Company store. I heard about it from Cali Lewis of GeekBrief.TV but never realized it was literally 3 miles from where I've visited my MIL many times! Aaron and I were in heaven and bought some goodies and took pics. We then headed over Highway 17 and into Santa Cruz to visit my step-sister and Dad. My sister and her boyfriend live in a beautiful home in Aptos where they have 3 doggies, wonderful decks and great food, music and conversation. My Dad happens to be working in the area so he joined us. Him and Aaron always have great conversations about gadgets and electronics. Aaron even brought his scooter charger to have Grandpa see if he could fix. If only we had brought the volt meter!

Friday we packed up and headed towards home. We stopped in Pleasanton to visit my Aunt and Uncle and visited with them a bit before they headed out to play some golf. We then drove to Reno, where we ate at the Peppermill buffet and then spent the night.

Saturday we drove home, picked up the dogs and spent the night outside on our patio since our hardwood floors had been refinished while we were gone. The smell was horrible (it even killed all my fish) and we decided not to take any chances on us or the dogs having any ill effects from breathing the fumes. Sunday we unpacked and then Monday headed back to work. I loved our vacation, but it went by SOOO fast!! It always reminds me what a beautiful place CA is and how I love to visit, but am definitely happier in Idaho.

Full album of the pictures here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oregon Coast

2 weeks ago, Dave and I dropped off the dogs at the Pet Lodge and headed West to the Oregon Coast. This was our 4th trip over there since 2001 when we went there on our first trip together. This was our first time driving and I hope we never fly again as driving is definitely my preferred method of travel. I love having my stuff with me and having the MDX's navigation was helpful and roomy interior was great. We got over 20 mpg which is good considering the "X" only has 2000 miles on it and is a full size SUV.

Anyway, we set out first thing in the morning from Boise and arrived at the Starfish Manor in Lincoln City in the afternoon. We toured our beautiful room which was very similar to the one we had at the Nelscott Manor last September for our wedding/honeymoon and decided to go to the Chinook Winds casino. We had terrific service as most people were at the casino portion and the restaurant we went to was in the hotel. Dave had the Captain's Platter which was a huge seafood plate of all kinds of wonderful things. I had crab cakes for the first time and they were marvelous.

The next day we drove north and stopped in Pacific City for breakfast at the Pelican Pub. There I had the best stuffed french toast and we shared beer sausage gravy and potatoes. On the beach where the restaurant is, cars can actually park and launch boats. It was quite strange to see cars and trucks driving along the beach. The beach was in front of Haystack rock which was also a beautiful site.

From Pacific City we drove further north all the way to Nehalam where there was a craft festival going on. I have to admit I was somewhat embarrassed after Dave drove as far as he did when there were only a few booths of stuff. I did buy some great home made cards and we did have a delicious strawberry shake at a local place so we counted the trip a success. We had also never driven farther north than Tillamook so all that was unchartered territory for us. We heard Canon Beach was nice, but after being in the car for 2 days we decided we'd had enough of driving. We also stopped at a winery outside of Tillamook but it was somewhat crowded and the person serving wasn't very personable, we had 2 samples, checked the interesting decorations of the place and continued our trip.

Saturday night we drove south from Lincoln City to Depoe Bay where we had dinner at a place we'd never been called Tidal Raves. Dave had the special which was a freshly caught sturgeon topped with crab. I had a wonderful crab alfredo. The view was beautiful and the service was great.

On Sunday, we went for the 3rd time to our favorite spot for brunch, Fathom's restuarant at the Spanish Head Inn. In 2001, we stayed at the Spanish Head Inn and went to brunch there and had a wonderful time. We spent hours talking and drinking mimosas after we finished eating. This time wasn't perfect as there were several small children that disrupted the environment, but the view and food was good. Dave emailed them later and they did send us a gift certificate for a free brunch for our next visit and we will be sure and go back. We then headed to the Factory Outlets and did some shopping. For dinner, we headed south again to Gracie's Sea Hag in Depoe Bay where Dave had a full crab and I had fish n chips.

Monday we decided to go to the Wild Flower Grill as it was recommended in the "journal" that was in our room. It was a terrific find. It was maybe once a house on the side of Highway 101 and overlooks somewhat of a swamp with berries growing that has been converted into a wonderful breakfast spot. They had homemade bread for toast and the slices were huge. Dave had an omelet and I had pancakes with marion berries and homemade cream.

We then drove south to Newport and walked around the various shops and watched a fishing boat prepare crab for the people who had gone out that morning. We went to eat at a local place where Dave again had a whole crab and I had a cup of chowder. For dinner, we went to J's Fish and Chips a wonderful little place in Lincoln City where the chef brought us some chowder that he had made up in the back. Dave happily "tasted" it and loved it. So the guy sent a big container home with us for later which made Dave very happy.

On Tuesday, we packed up and drove home. We got behind a truck painting lines on the road which was going very slow so we didn't stop at the Spirit Mountain Casino buffet on the way out of town like I wanted to, but we did stop and eat in Tualatin at Rose's where I again had fish and chips and Dave had some kind of weird sandwich with meat and egg salad.

It was a wonderfully relaxing trip, I got a lot of reading done and I took a nice hot bath in the big jetted tub that overlooks the beach each night. I also read the great Chesapeake Bay trilogy by Nora Roberts given to me by my Mother in Law. I just found out there is a 4th book so I'm trying to find it.

On the trip, for the first time in my life, I ate seafood. And liked it. Yesterday was my birthday and Dave took me out for fish and chips at a great place called Fresh Off The Hook here in Boise. We also went out for a nice dinner at the Cottonwood Grille with his sister and her boyfriend Saturday night. Then we went to a new comedy club (since the Funny Bone is gone) and had a great night out. In 2 weeks, we are headed to the Bay Area where I plan on seeking out more delicious seafood! I love summer!!

The full album of pictures of our Oregon Coast trip are here.