Road trip: Reno/Tahoe

Our friend Yvonne moved to Reno not too long ago, so we decided to visit her and see Reno and Lake Tahoe for the first time. Well, technically we saw Reno on our way out here in 2010, but we basically just drove through and stopped for a quick lunch. This time we saw a heck of a lot more, especially considering we were only there for about 24 hours.

We drove to Reno on Friday afternoon, which I will not do again. Traffic was horrible! But once we got to the mountains at sunset I got a little less cranky. It was beautiful up there!

We took the dogs with us so that they could see their friend Okie again, and meet Yvonne’s new dog, Bug. The dogs were like an instant pack, running around and wrestling with each other. They also managed to figure out how to open the sliding door and escape from the house, but blessedly they didn’t go anywhere.

Everybody on the bed!

Yvonne’s house is so cool. It’s full of midcentury stuff that I swoon over. I mean, look at this lamp!

Saturday morning we decided to go on a little nerdy historical expedition. We were looking for some wagon ruts that allegedly were used by the Donner party. And we actually found them.

It’s basically just a rocky path at this point, but cool nonetheless. On the way there we ran into a bunch of wild horses.

They had obviously been around people before because they were very curious about us and not at all afraid of the dogs. One even let Mike pet her.

After that we had to hit The Nugget casino in downtown Reno so I could try the famous Awful Awful burger.

And I can now confirm that it is both awful big and awful good.

It’s a nice peppery burger with enough sauce that it doesn’t get too dry. The only weird thing is that they give you a pound of fries, which no one can possibly eat in one sitting (at least without being in some sort of contest where you win a T-shirt).

Hey, I finally look pregnant. Kind of.

Our last adventure was to head up to Lake Tahoe so we could finally see what all the fuss was about. It was such a gorgeous day, and because it’s fall the traffic wasn’t too bad.

We walked the dogs around for a while. Poor little Bug is still a little skittish so we had to get him to relax.

We let the girls loose on the dog beach, too.

Yvonne got this great picture of all of us. Sadie was being shy.

I really enjoyed getting in a little bit of nature at the lake. The sky was so blue, I couldn’t stop looking up.

We would have stayed longer and explored some more of the Donner history, but we had to get home. The dogs were so tired from playing that they completely crashed in the car.

Now that we know what we’ve been missing, we’ll definitely be back.

Recipe fails

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted more recipes lately, but I’ve made a lot of dishes in the last few weeks that have just been meh. Not worth sharing, really.

I tried making Heidi Swanson’s veggie curry again. And while it was much tastier and less watery, it still wasn’t quite right. I think I’m going to try it again with coconut cream instead of coconut milk. Mike always used to make his curries with coconut cream, and it works well.

This cheesy broccoli casserole from Iowa Girl Eats looked amazing. But as much as I hate to admit this, it didn’t have the flavor of the one I used to make with cream of mushroom soup. Darn you, Campbell’s!

I tried making my own mac ‘n cheese with this recipe from Real Simple. I subbed a mix of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese for the crushed crackers (something I will definitely do again), and I added bacon and green onions. But the problem was the milk-to-cheese ratio. Not enough cheese! I can’t seem to achieve the creaminess I’ve had in restaurant versions. I probably don’t even want to know what’s in theirs.

And finally, I tried Joy’s chili fries, which looked so yummy. In an attempt to make them somewhat healthy, I used sweet potatoes instead of regular ones. Maybe that’s why they came out kind of dry and pasty. They tasted pretty good, but not the way I’d imagined.

So, I admit defeat on these recipes. But I’m not giving up! The great thing about everyone and their mother being a food blogger is that I come across new recipes every day, and I just keep on trying ’em.

19 weeks and counting

We’re almost halfway to baby! Today marks 19 weeks. That means next week at our ultrasound we get to find out the sex of the baby. I guess we are not too patient because we are both dying to know.

I took some really bad iPhone pics of my belly over the last few weeks. I’ve basically gone from muffin top to beer belly, but I don’t think I’ve reached adorable bump status yet.

One cool thing, though. I think I can feel the baby kicking now. Mostly at night or when I’m sitting still. It’s pretty much the coolest thing ever. I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune later, but I’m like, come on baby, kick me!

Orla Kiely soap!

Spotted yesterday at Target and practically ripped off the shelves.

Orla Kiely/Method soap! I really liked the primrose pattern.

Don’t tell Mike, I’m going back for more.

Mac ‘n cheese, please

After Angeline’s, I cannot get enough mac ‘n cheese. It is definitely a big craving, of late. So I was fortunate to get to try it at a couple of new-to-me restaurants in Oakland.

First, we went to Chop Bar, which is in the Jack London Square area. It has this industrial chic look inside, and a gastropub-type menu.

Mike decided to try the oxtail poutine, which sounded so lovely and indulgent. But instead of the cheesy, ultra-rich concoction we were expecting, it was kind of skimpy with bland fries.

But the mac ‘n cheese side did not disappoint. It was gooey and cheesy with crunchy crumbs on top.

The best thing I ate, though, was the only thing I didn’t get a picture of, and that was the burger. It had bacon, avocado, and heirloom tomato slices, and was just heavenly. I would go back just for that. The bloody Marys also looked yummy, and you can get yours with bacon!

Our next mac ‘n cheese adventure came at Homeroom, which is an entire restaurant devoted to the dish. They have all different varieties of cheeses and add-ins, plus a few sides and desserts. The decor is sort of homey and vintage, and drinks are served in Mason jars.

I love this photo because it totally looks Instagram-ed, but it’s not!

I ordered the Trailer Mac, which comes with Niman Ranch hot dog pieces and potato chips on top. Our waiter recommended that we get ours baked with breadcrumbs, so I said OK. In the end I thought the breadcrumbs added much more than the chips. Either way – yum!

We also discovered a big list of Oakland restaurants to try, so we’ve been sampling other cuisines, too. When one of Mike’s map nerd friends was in town we took him to Cosecha, which is kind of like fancied-up Mexican street food.

The guacamole was excellent, and I liked the grilled corn with chile, lime, and cheese sprinkled on top.

I had a quesadilla with grilled chicken and hot peppers, and Mike tried a few different tacos. We decided our favorite was the braised pork taco.

Then last weekend we met a college friend of ours at the Thai Buddhist temple in Berkeley for brunch, of all things. The best way I can describe it is to say I think it’s the most Berkeley thing I’ve done since I’ve been here.

The temple is really just a house on a residential street that has a big ornate facade. But you go around back and there are all these stations serving curries, noodle soups, spring rolls, and the like. You exchange your money for tokens, and pay with those. We got there at 10 a.m., and by the time we left around 11 there were hundreds of people there and the line was all the way to the street. It is just the coolest thing.

Attempting to smile with a mouth full of curry.

We tried a few different curried stir-fries, Thai iced tea, and mango sticky rice. It was definitely a lot of rich food for so early in the day, but I loved it.

Every time I think we’ve settled into a routine, I realize there is so much more to discover around here. We’ve got at least 30 more restaurants on our list to try. Bring it on!

New blogging gig

After my Fresh Home gig petered out, I’m glad to say that I have a new one with Goodsmiths is a new online marketplace, similar to Etsy, where crafters sell their wares. They’re based in Des Moines, which is how I got the connection. I’m proud to see the Silicon Prairie thing really heating up there.

Anyway, I’ll be posting there about once a week with DIY tutorials, advice for sellers, info on California crafters and events, and whatever else I come up with. My first post is about lessons learned in shipping, which is a topic I love to talk about!

I’d recommend just bookmarking the blog in general, because there are several bloggers posting all kinds of tutorials and recipes you might want to try. And of course if you’re interested in expanding your craft empire, you can open a shop there.