Sunday, July 25, 2021

Don't Take Festivals For Granted - Mountain View Was Just Canceled/Moved/Shortened

 We've all done it. We walk through an art & wine festival, look at the art, listen to a band or two, marvel at the crowds, and maybe sip a glass of wine. Maybe even buy a book by a local author.

But we never stop and think of what it takes to organize hundreds of exhibitors, coordinate with the town's chamber of commerce, the police and fire departments, trash collectors, the health authorities, and yes, even the porta-potty companies.

It's a huge job, often thankless, and after months or years of planning, sometimes the permission gets yanked.

For many years, I've exhibited at the Mountain View (where Google headquarters is) Art & Wine Festival. It's been a hugely successful show for 5 decades, drawing monster crowds to Mountain View's downtown the second weekend every September. Apparently, the show was canceled at the last minute.

The organizers scrambled and managed to put together a smaller show over at the CalTrain station and only for one day instead of the usual two.

Like many exhibitors, I wouldn't be able to make a one-day show in a new location work, so I didn't sign up.

Maybe they'll get back to normal next year?

So sorry for any of you who wanted to make the show. The closest I'll be on the peninsula this year is the San Mateo Harvest Festival November 12-14.

Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Are We Inundated Yet?

 Perhaps more than ever before, Tahoe is full. Buried with visitors. Tourists and vacation home owners, hikers, bikers, kayakers, boaters, sailors. Oh yeah, beach-goers. Blame it on the rebound from Covid shutdown.

Wait, considering nearly all of us earn our living from tourists, I said that wrong. CREDIT the rebound from the Covid shutdown.

How to cope with the crowds? Oops, there I go again. How to best ENJOY the crowds?

I've said this before. GET THERE EARLY.

It doesn't matter if you're heading out on a hike or cruise or just going to the supermarket. Getting there early makes the difference between finding what you want and need or not getting it at all.

Yes, I realize that some places don't open early. You could get to the beach early and not be able to drive in until they open. My response is that I'd rather be first in line and wait than come later and be turned away by a 'Parking Lot Full' sign.

The other day, I drove around Emerald Bay at 7:30 in the morning. Nearly all parking spaces were already taken. Solution? Plan to start your hike down to the lake (or up into the mountains) at 6:30. You'll find a parking place, and trail will be much less crowded.

Get there early, you will enjoy our fabulous sights, sites, and weather!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Hot? All Is Not Lost

 Saturday afternoon in Sacramento: Air temperature is 107, heading to a forecasted 111.

Despite the heat, all is not lost if you can get up to the lake.

Saturday afternoon at Lake Tahoe: Water temperature near the shore is 66 - 70 degrees. Water temp in the middle of the lake is in the mid-50s. Jump in and swim down 10 feet, you'll likely hit water in the upper 40s. Do a deep dive the way "free divers" do, you might hit 39-degree water.

Bottom line: If you're boating well out into the lake, it's a good idea to just appreciate the cool air blowing over the water's surface. If you fall in, you will definitely cool off. Maybe too much... Probably too much...


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Plant-Based Burger Grill Test

 Like many people, I think there are few foods tastier than a grilled cheeseburger (or a grilled steak). But when I read an article about how the ranchers who are cutting down vast swaths of the Amazon rain forest are doing it so they can raise cattle, I thought I should consider the alternatives. I'm going to pass on our experiences.

This isn't meant to be a screed about how the world's agriculture business is like the world's oil business, a giant contributor to climate change. After all, I still own gas-powered vehicles, and I heat my house with hydro-carbon fuel. But I imagine that it won't be long before I buy electric vehicles and consider a heat pump to replace the furnace. Likewise, I wondered if I could make a tiny difference by switching to the new plant-based burger substitutes.

Two popular products are Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger. They are 100% made with plants (soy beans and such).

We bought some of each. And we've now cooked multiple variations.

First impressions? They are both quite oily and hard to form into patties that don't fall apart. The Beyond Burger has a less attractive aroma before it's cooked. Although, after it cooks, it's much better. Both Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger stick to whatever they touch (wax paper, frying pan, plastic wrap), and the effort to release the burger for unwrapping or flipping once they are cooking tends to break the burgers apart. 

We added several ingredients, mixing in chopped green peppers, chopped, cooked onions and other vegetables. Another time, we mixed in a scrambled egg to help hold the burger together, and that seemed to help.

We learned that if you put the burger directly on the grill, it tends to break up and fall through. So we cook them on the type of grilling pan that is filled with holes. And we use olive oil on the pan to help keep the burger from sticking.

We cooked the burgers thoroughly enough to get a singe on the surface even though the hole-filled grilling pan makes that difficult. But the pan makes it easier to turn the burgers without them falling apart. We topped the burgers with sharp cheddar cheese, and serve them up with fresh tomatoes and spinach. Along with the Plant Burgers, we grilled corn on the cob with the husks on until the husks are burnt nearly black, which gives the corn a golden quality. Sometimes we grill slices of small zucchinis to add to the combo.

The results? A tasty treat that is absolutely enjoyable. We really like them. After several meals of Plant Burgers, we no longer wonder if they're good enough. They are!

But the key is... Don't think of them as hamburgers! They simply aren't similar enough to taste the same. If instead, you think of them as a new kind of grilled treat, they are very tasty. 

Which is better, Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger? We both thought the Impossible Burger tasted better, and it also smells better before it's cooked. (No small thing, that.)

In addition, knowing that our Plant Burgers don't add to global warming is a real plus. Knowing that one of those charming cute cows we drive by in Carson Valley didn't die for us is also reassuring. 

And there are other small benefits. Whenever you work with animal meat, you have to be extra careful about cleanliness and how thoroughly you cook, for salmonella reasons or otherwise. That concern is largely gone considering Plant Burgers are basically a new type of veggie. We also like knowing that plant burgers don't give us blast of cholesterol in our diet.

Will we abandon beef as a result? We already have. Again, plant burgers don't taste the same as beef. But they're a good substitute with lots of advantages.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sure, It's Toasty, But Look At The Temps In The Valley

 As Tahoe approaches 90, locals get bent out of shape. Yes, we can always jump in the icy lake. But still... 90 degrees?!

But it's good to remember why thousands of tourists are streaming into Tahoe. It's always 10 or 15 degrees hotter "down there." Maybe even more.

I guess we can't complain.

Come up the mountain, and you won't complain, either.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Back From The (Pandemic) Brink

 The world is slowly getting back to normal. Yay. Book events are coming back as well. The South Lake Tahoe library scheduled me to talk about my new book, Tahoe Jade, on Tuesday August 10 at 6 p.m. As in the past, it will probably be smart to arrive early (5:30?) to get books signed. My talk and Q & A will begin a little after 6.

South Lake Tahoe library audience.

Is this an interesting reading? Or am I droning on and on...?

I've also scheduled several festivals, Harvest Festivals in San Mateo and Sacramento, and the Mountain View Art and Wine Festival. The Candy Dance is pending. Judging from interest, I'll have several bookstore events as well.
I'll post more about my events as they take shape.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Little Free Library

 For writers, libraries are sacred. A really cool development in the world of libraries is "The Little Free Library," an attractive neighborhood display where you can help yourself to a book at no charge and with no obligation. You can also donate a book for others to enjoy. There are no rules and no requirements.

Little Free Libraries are put up by volunteers everywhere. There are now over 100,000 Little Free Libraries around the world.

There are a dozen Little Free Libraries on Tahoe's South Shore, and also two on the North Shore.

If you'd like to find locations or learn about how to put up one of these great attractions in your own neighborhood, visit the website: 


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Dogs Can Smell Covid... Of Course

 We all know that dogs can smell pretty much anything, no matter how elusive or faint. Woe to the bad guy who is trying to smuggle drugs or explosives and finds that the cops or TSA people have a trained dog.

We've also learned that dogs can sniff out all kinds of cancer, diabetes, malaria, some types of Parkinsons. They can sense an impending epileptic seizure. The list goes on. 

Now a group of scientists at the University of Pennsylvania is training dogs to identify people with covid.

The Munsterlander is particularly good at smelling covid. Here's an article in National Geographic about how they train the dogs to find covid.

Once again, our favorite pets have astonishing abilities that no machine or robot can touch.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

This Earthquake Stuff Is Getting Routine

I was at my computer when the most recent quake hit, two days ago. It was, for us, a whole lotta shakin' goin' on. People who reside near major fault lines would probably scoff at our reaction, considering no building fell down, no tsunamis washed up on shore, no pipelines were severed by shifting land.

The quake was a mile or so below the center of Lake Tahoe. It was close to the location of one of the last significant quakes. Hmmm. Are the Earthquake gods trying to tell us something?

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Drought? Yeah, But Remind Me The Next Time It Snows 10 Feet

People are already talking about how low the lake is this spring, and which boat ramps are closing due to low water level, and how maybe this is the beginning of the next 500-year mega drought.

Yes, it could be bad. Meanwhile, long-term drought or not, it will snow again. Unless you're on the Atacama Desert in the Andes, precipitation keeps returning. A drought just means less quantity and less often.

So if your boat has a deep draft, maybe leave it at home, come walk the shore and hike the trails and take pictures of our beautiful pure lake. And don't throw away your snow shovels just yet.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

End Of An Era

 Our much-loved Lake Tahoe Community College art professor David Foster passed away last week.

David was a friend to hundreds and instructor to thousands. An icon of the arts and a part of the bedrock of the Tahoe community, he was one of the original founders of the Lake Tahoe Community College, and he served as head of the art department for decades.

Some knew David as a professor who taught figure drawing, others as the leader of many student trips to Europe to study art. Some knew him as a marble sculptor who worked in Italy. Some knew him as a photographer. Some knew him as a fitness enthusiast who could seemingly run forever.

All knew him as a dedicated, thoughtful man who, while fun and often funny, never lost his focus on being an earnest, smart teacher, tireless supporter of the community, and husband of his great wife Joanne and father of their kids.

We will miss him very much.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Earthquakes In Tahoe!

 When we moved to Tahoe, we never thought about earthquakes. We knew of course about the major quakes that leveled buildings and freeway overpasses and killed lots of people. But Tahoe was never on the list of places with major risk. So when we experienced our first shaker, we were actually excited. This was what everyone talked about! The lamps teetered, the pictures on the wall went crooked, and dishes "walked" across the counters and shelves.

Since then we've experienced many earthquakes that were significant enough to feel. (For those who don't know, there are hundreds and sometimes even thousands of earthquakes a day across the west, most of which are too minor to feel. We only know about them because sensitive instruments pick up the movement.) 

We've also learned about plate tectonics. The earth's crust is made up of giant plates that are constantly moving. The reason for their movement is not totally understood, but suffice to say that the interior of our planet is a dynamic place, full of movement. And what goes on down below affects what happens on the surface crust.

The main thing is that those crustal plates move in different directions and at different speeds. The intersection of the plates is where the action is. The stresses build up, and, periodically, those stresses are released when the plates suddenly move. Sometimes one plate pushes up against another, and that process builds mountain ranges. Other times, a plate gets pushed down, or sideways. No matter what direction the tectonic plates suddenly move, we feel it as an earthquake.

In the last two weeks, Tahoe has had two dramatic quakes. They haven't caused much damage. But they sure get your attention!