Snow Shoeing Along Meeks Creek

The sun was out, and the snow was deep. It was a perfect day for snow shoeing. We parked along side Highway 89 (south of Tahoe City), strapped on shoes rented from Tahoe Dave’s, and stepped off the road onto the snowy bank near the Meeks Bay Resort.

We followed the gated dirt road now packed with snow about 1.4 miles, admiring and hugging the trees along the way, stopping as the road ended and the trail began to climb.

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We ate our snacks on logs then headed slowly back to the car, this time across frozen Meeks Creek, choosing to make our own trail through the snowy meadow.

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Trip taken December 2015.

Tootling Around Truckee

Truckee still has the same sense of community that it had when I first moved here, the woman behind the counter said. “In the 18 years I’ve lived here, the population has grown from 4600 to 16,000, but it’s still the same.” And when I mention her quote to others who’ve been visiting Truckee for at least that long, they agree, though they tell me that the week between Christmas and New Year’s the winter enthusiasts have elevated the population to 50,000 or so.

It’s been years since I’ve visited Truckee. So long that I didn’t remember it’s charm. Most of what the tourist visits when they’re not hiking or snow shoeing or skiing is on one long street in downtown Truckee filled with boutiques, a fudge shop, and local artisan galleries.

Truckee

There are old railroad tracks and tiny bungalows just a block away, and plenty of places to spend money.

Truckee RR Tracks

We ogled and coveted the beautiful locally crafted items at Riverside Studios and Bespoke, wishing we could add to our Christmas list. We ate burgers and sampled beer at Fifty Fifty Brewing Company. We drank coffee at Coffee Bar, trying its lavender and chai spiced lattes, and gluten-free desserts. We enjoyed the uniqueness, the character, the charm of this mountainside community.

Coffee Bar

Mocha Latte

Trip taken January 2016.

Have You Skied at Tahoe?

My first memories of Lake Tahoe are of my dad, taking a dip in its cool waters. It’s summer, and the sun has warmed the air to the 70s, but the water is in the 50s. Brrr. He looks cold after his summer plunge, even to my young eyes. The lake is so cold, so big, and so blue.

It’s big (there are 121 square miles of water in both California and Nevada). It’s deep (at 1645 feet, it’s the third deepest lake in North America and the second deepest lake in the U.S.). It’s high (the highest lake in the U.S. at 6225 feet above sea level). But why is it so blue? Click here to find out.

When people talk about skiing at Tahoe, they’re really talking about skiing the Sierra Nevada mountains located near or around the lake. There are at least 19 mountain peaks, jagged and majestic at 9500 feet high. Tahoe is known as the site of the demise of many in the Donner Party in 1846-1847 and the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. The first California chairlift was funded by none other than Walt Disney in 1937 at Sugar Bowl. Now there are 17 ski resorts with downhill, cross country, or back country skiing – some big, some small, each with a character of its own.

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I started the new year at Alpine Meadows. Though the morning was cold with minus zero temperatures and snowflakes blurred our vision, by noon, the sun was out and our view of the lake from the summit was unobstructed.

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Trip taken January 2016.

Traveling Through Each State’s Quarter

Are you a coin collector? Do you practice numismatists, the study of coins? Or maybe you just like to collect United States quarters, you know, the ones made for each state?

Though we started collecting quarters when our kids were little, not long after the U.S. Mint started the State Quarters Program in 1999, I still enjoy looking at them and wondering about the place, object, or person which was chosen to represent each state.

State Quarters

I haven’t been to every state, nor have I seen everything depicted on each state’s quarter, but I have seen Oregon’s Crater Lake and hiked up Vermont’s Camel’s Hump, I’ve driven by Nebraska’s Chimney Rock and climbed California’s Half Dome. I’ve seen New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain, walked around New York’s Statue of Liberty, and even seen a grizzly bear in Alaska. But I haven’t been to Kentucky’s Bardstown Mansion nor have I eaten a peach in Georgia. I’ve seen many American bison but never in North Dakota or Kansas. I haven’t crossed West Virginia’s New River Gorge Bridge nor been to the Indy 500 in Indiana.

SD Quarter

Here’s a list of states with the elements depicted in each of their designs. Where have you been and where do you need to go?

Where Can You Find Good Mexican Food in Tucson?

When searching for good Mexican food last June, we went to the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, El Charro Cafe.

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We arrived early and were seated quickly inside. Northern Sonora-Mexican food choices and a few Tucson ones fill the menu with the typical Mexican items of burritos and enchiladas plus grilled asada, hand-made tamales, chilaquiles, and ribs. There are gluten-free options and vegan ones, and plenty of cervezas. Overwhelmed, I gave up the opportunity to eat my usual Mexican food standby, fish tacos. Instead, I elected to sample many of the menu’s flavors by sharing a taco platter and a plate of tamales with my family.

The “Charrocuterie” a la Plancha includes a large vintage platter of carne asada, carnitas ranchero, grilled chicken, grilled peppers and onions, guacamole, pico salsa, sour cream, queso casero, applewood bacon, salsa, arroz, frijoles refritos, and corn or flour tortillas.

El Charro Tacos

The tamales looked good, too, so we added an order of three handmade tamales: pork carnitas, chicken tomatillo, and fresh corn.  The flavors were rich and deep, with just enough spice. 

El Charro Tamales

El Charro opened in 1922 and is the oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family in the United States.

Trip taken June 2015.

How to Find Gluten-Free Food on the Road

My daughter doesn’t eat gluten, not because she doesn’t like it or prefers not to, but because it makes her sick. She has celiac disease. So when we travel, we often use the Find Me Gluten Free app to discover places she can eat.

On a recent trip to Tucson, Arizona, our friends took us to a place for lunch called “Beyond Bread.” While the name sounded like it might be a good source of gluten-free food, just by walking in, we knew it wasn’t. Beyond Bread is all about the bread with a few salads and soups thrown in. While it may be fine for those who choose to eat gluten free, anyone with an allergy to gluten should beware.

After the rest of us got our gluten fix, we checked out the Find Me Gluten Free app and made a slight detour. Just a few miles down the road, we entered a green building with a cornucopia of gluten-free food – breads, sandwiches, cookies, even beer.

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Gluten-Free Bakery

Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery/Bistro is open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Saturday and for dinner on Friday and Saturday.

Trip taken June 2015.

When Is a Zoo a Museum?

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, is not just a museum. It’s a place to learn about the desert, to see desert animals in their natural habitat.

Arizona-Senora Desert Museum

I dragged my family to the Desert Museum on a sweltering day in June. The heat may have been dry, but it was heat all the same, at least 100 degrees. But we all agreed it was worth it. The museum was every bit as interesting and enjoyable as I remembered from my previous visits. 

It was late afternoon and the museum closed in just over an hour. Although the museum recommends at least 2 hours for a visit, we didn’t have a choice and knew that in the heat, we wouldn’t last much longer than an hour and a half anyway. So we paid the $19.50 adult admission fee, and entered.

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We walked along the 2 miles of trails, discovering various animals along the way. 

Big Horn Sheep

We cooled off in the gift store before leaving, hoping to return on another, not so hot, day, in the not too distant future.

Trip taken June 2015.

Back in Time near Bisbee

In Lowell, Arizona, you can go back in time for just a quick visit and just as quickly return to the future. In June 2015 we did just that.

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With its 1950s gas stations, Coke machines, and cars, Erie Street is just about all that is left of what was once a booming mining town in the late 1800s. Located just southeast of Old Bisbee, Arizona, Lowell was taken over in the 1950s by the Lavender Pit, an open pit copper mine.

Gas Pumps in Lowell

Now with its 1950s paraphernalia, you’ll think you’ve gone back to the 1950s, even if you’ve never been there before. 

Car in Lowell

Trip taken June 2015.

Sampling Bisbee

Visiting a farmer’s market while in Bisbee, Arizona, gave us a chance to talk to the locals and try some of their products. We saw solar ovens at work, baking banana bread and cooking a stew.

Solar Oven

We tasted salsas, cheese, and almonds, buying some chili powder and corn and cactus tortillas to bring back home. We learned about mesquite flour, a flour made from the pods of the mesquite tree.

Bibs Farmers Market

Hungry for lunch, we moved on to Old Bisbee, a touristy part of Bisbee with plenty of interesting and touristy shops on its winding Victorian streets. After salads and sandwiches at Cafe Cornucopia, we tried on hats, talked to beekeepers, looked at jewelry, and sampled more salsa before heading back to our hotel, wishing we could stay for the outdoor concert to be held that evening.

Trip taken June 2015.

Blueberries in Gloucester

When a friend first gave me her recipe for blueberry crisp, I had never heard of Annisquam. For some reason, I thought Annisquam was some place up in Maine.

It’s not – Annisquam is a beautiful waterfront village in Gloucester, Massachusetts. We visited one of its private beaches with friends on a beautiful summer day.

Annisquam

The next day, I realized where I’d heard the word before … in the title of one of my favorite recipes.

I’ve made Annisquam Blueberry Crisp with fresh blueberries in August and with frozen ones in January. I’ve made it with wheat flour and with gluten-free flour. Though the texture may vary slightly depending on the type of flour, it’s always yummy. The port is the secret ingredient.

Blueberries

Enjoy!

Annisquam Blueberry Crisp

4 cups blueberries (or two 10-oz packages frozen, thawed)
1/4 cup ruby port
3/4 cup sifted gluten-free flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Combine blueberries and port in a well-buttered, 1 quart baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Add butter, cut into bits and blend until the mixture resembles cornmeal. 

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the blueberries and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. 

Serves 6 to 8