Just a Whole Lotta Lake Tahoe

Fall in Northern California is something special. I am unapologetic about photographing every leaf around Lake Tahoe…

When will I tire of standing on a hill and looking down to the bottom of the lake??

We were a little disappointed the day was so overcast. The white clouds gave a cast to the lake that took away its brilliant blue hue.

You can see every pebble on the bottom.

As Hannah and I ooo’d and ahh’d, I realized Scott was no longer with us. I started looking around and found this curious site…

He found a treasure. 🙂

There are a few years between these two pictures, but the look-what-I-found enthusiasm is just the same!

After spending some time around the northern part of the lake (my favorite spot), we drove along the edge – along MANY winding, hairpin curves – to the southern part of the lake. Emerald Bay is a big touristy spot so there are always lots of people around. We lucked out that there weren’t as many as when we were here in August.

(Did I mention it was a really windy day?!)

We stopped to walk on a beach front off the lake. It’s hard to beat beach sand, clear water and mountains in the distance.

Autumn in northern California is a thing of beauty and contrast.

There was a kid’s playground we had a little fun with too…

Hannah and I walked a beautiful trail from the beach over to a dock area for some more pictures of the lake. It’s hard to stop finding new vistas and new jaw-dropping views.

I mostly try to wait and take pictures of the scenery without cars in the way. But sometimes it’s good to see the vast size difference between ‘regular life’ and nature.

The nearby wildfires were also evident. As the sun set, the hazy smoke in the sky became more and more apparent.

Another day of magnificent granite rock and pine trees unbelievably tall and so long you can hardly bend back far enough to see it all. The aspens were making a spectacular show of things too!

The drive was picture perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better day of brilliant color, cool temperatures and memory-making views.


Napa Valley

On Monday we explored the grandeur of Yosemite National Park (read here) and on Tuesday we drove north to Napa Valley. Yountville and Calistoga are favorites.

Of course Hannah (rightfully so!) compared everything to the movie Parent Trap! -ha.

I loved how this winery mixed fall decor with succulents. (I was taking copious notes!!)

This statue will always remind me of visiting Yountville right after my son and daughter-in-law lost their beloved dog, Max. It was such a sad time for everyone so seeing this statue entitled ‘Who Saved Who’ was very sweet.

Wandering around the old Marketplace building is enjoyable both from the perspective of the shops as well as the architectural elements of the building.

Hannah’s love for Young Frankenstein knows no end!!

Scott and I have been to the Napa Valley region in the winter, the late spring and now Fall. It’s fascinating to see how things change from season to season. One magnificent highlight dies back as a new spotlight appears somewhere else.

The French Laundry. I have talked before about my respect for this restaurant and its owner and chef, Thomas Keller. Named the Best Restaurant in the World in 2003 and 2004, recipient of the coveted 3-star Michelin award and ultimately called “the best restaurant in the world, period” in 2005 by Anthony Bourdain.

In the 1920s, the building was owned by John Lande who used it as a French steam laundry, thus the name.

The restaurant wasn’t officially open yet so Hannah and I wandered around to the back…

It was beautiful and calm in the back. Easy to imagine guests milling about on a cool, Fall evening.

But then I noticed the open windows across the way and about dropped to my knees! It was the kitchen!!! I stood for an awkward amount of time – in reverence – and watched all the kitchen staff in their sharp, white uniforms, diligently working to prepare the evening meal.

In my imagination, this was Chef Thomas Keller. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it! 🙂

The door that leads to the magic.

Not to mention that Anthony Bourdain once walked through it. Maybe stood outside and smoked a bit before returning to the kitchen to see how they prepared his delicious meal. sighhhh…..

Across the street from The French Laundry, is their garden. Without hesitation, it is the most beautifully perfect garden I have ever seen. We spent a long time walking around, reading about the different types of vegetables growing, etc. It’s the garden every gardener dreams of in their wildest imaginations.

And let’s face it – it’s all about the irrigation capabilities, right??

Bees to support the garden…

The most adorable chicken coop area…

And an enormous herb greenhouse.

It is a dream to imagine living like this. Supporting yourself through your own sustainable gardening.

We have yet to identify this nut tree. Anyone have any ideas?? (It doesn’t appear to be an almond when we broke it open.)

Down the street from The French Laundry is a Thomas Keller owned bakery, Bouchon Bakery. While I can’t afford the $310 a plate dinner at TFL, I will happily pay for the best croissant I’ve ever had. And the best macarons. Each time I come I think it might be a fluke, but no…they are the best in the universe!!!

Hanging in the Marketplace building is a colored drawing of the cookbooks from the local chefs of Napa Valley. I want every book – and the drawing of them!

We spent most of our time in Yountville, then drove through Napa’s plethora of vineyards. We’ve seen these vineyards in 3 seasons and each one is as fascinating as the next. It was fun to be experiencing it with Hannah this time.

Rows and rows of perfection.

Miles and miles of fun.

A perfect way to relax.




Yosemite National Park

Our daughter, Hannah, flew into town on Sunday. We started right out on our California adventures on Monday morning. We are tired and car-weary, but it’s been an incredible two days (and more to come!)

(interesting water levels on the rocks across the lake)

We drove 3.5 hours to Yosemite National Park yesterday. Lots of talking and catching up along the way (…the good, good part…) We were each completely overwhelmed with the enormity of the iconic views of Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Once again, California has taken my breath away.

(picture above: why do I doubt the validity of this statement?? -ha Regardless, I am thankful for the commitment to preservation of Muir and Roosevelt.)

The talls are so tall and so straight and SO difficult to capture on film.

Half Dome…

An awe-inspiring waterfall. It was so high up that by the time it reached the level we were, the water dissipated into mist and blew away.

Notice the people on the ground below…

…and the full-grown pine trees on the top of this ‘lil rock’.

I was a little enamoured with this photographer. He looks like he holds a lot of stories…

Unfortunately, we saw a lot of burned forestry in the Park as well.

On the way home we took Hannah by one of our favorite places: Big Tree State Park. We arrived near sunset which made it even more amazing.

What I didn’t get were pictures of us. It was all just wonderfully overwhelming. Cameras aside… eyes up.

It seemed the right place to be, Yosemite National Park, on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Thankful for my people. And the fascinating Northwest.

[Adding some of Hannah’s picutures too]

Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

We are a Soup vs Stew house over here. While I like a good stew just as much as the next person, my wife, however, does not truly care for soup. So the heftier I can make it, the better for her. And this soup fills that niche perfectly.

Made in my ceramic-coated, cast-iron Dutch oven, this hearty soup is perfect for a chilly evening but it’s even better when it’s reheated the next day for lunch with a half a grilled cheese sandwich.

(A quick ode to the grilled cheese sandwich –
We are big fans of the movie, Chef, starring Jon Favreau. Watching him make a grilled cheese sandwich is a thing of beauty. It’s a must watch if you haven’t already seen it.)

Chicken, Mushroom and Long Grain Rice Soup

  • Servings: approx. 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 6 cups less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 14 oz skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup long grain, wild rice
  • 1/2 cup jasmine rice
  • 4 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp light sour cream
  • salt and fresh pepper, to taste


Melt butter in a large pot on medium heat, add onion and saute until soft but not yet browned – approximately 3-4 minutes

Add flour and saute another minute

Add chicken broth, water, carrots, garlic, jasmine and long grain rice, and chicken thighs – cover and simmer 20 minutes

Add mushrooms – cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally

Remove chicken from pot and shred with two forks.

Return chicken to pot, add sour cream and more water if too thick, adjust salt and pepper to taste


This 6-quart Martha Stewart Collection dutch oven is a go-to pot for me. I highly recommend it.

I love you s’more!

from Scott Sutherland

Melting chocolate and fire-toasted marshmallows are a must around any campfire. Are you a lightly toasted or char that thing BLACK, kind of marshmallow roaster??

However, if a campfire isn’t nearby, this s’more bake in a cast iron skillet is sure to make you start humming 99 Bottles and practicing your knot expertise.

Break out the puzzles and gather the kids around because the whole family is going to love this delicious S’more Bake.

I Love You S'more! Dessert

  • Servings: approx. 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups marshmallows, halved crosswise
  • 2 (4 oz) bars semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • garnish: melted chocolate


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10″ cast iron skillet with cooking spray

In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy – approximately 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, mix together oats, flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Gradually add oat mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined.

Firmly press 2/3s of crumble mixture into bottom of prepared skillet. Top with marshmallows and chopped chocolate. Sprinkle with remaining crumble mixture.

Bake until golden brown – approximately 20-24 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired.

The only other thing needed? Your very own made-up-on-the-spot ghost story.

E N J O Y!

Fab Forties

Since moving to the Sacramento area last year, we have been repeatedly told we need to visit the ‘Fab 40’ houses in East Sacramento. “Big old homes from the 1940’s…”, people would say.

Recently, Scott and I watched the movie Lady Bird, which takes place in Sacramento. The main character, Christine (aka: Lady Bird), falls madly in love with one of the Fab 40 homes and pretends that’s where she lives. Hearing the movie refer to the Fab 40 area instigated us to take a trip over to see the houses on Scott’s last day off from work.

We found the area and picked the street Christine mentioned in the movie: 44th Street. As we turned on the street we quickly realized not only had we driven onto a street of beautiful 1940’s houses, we had also stepped directly back into Kansas City, Missouri!

Meyer Boulevard, the area around Loose Park, Brookside… with the exception of the palm trees and tile roofs, this neighborhood immediately transported us to some of our favorite Kansas City neighborhoods.

This is the house that Christine stood outside and dreamed of in the movie. It’s easy to understand her fascination.

And while it would be almost impossible to pick a favorite house on the street, if I had to, I think I saved that house for the very end of this post. 😉

Each home had its own unique features.

This tree, at the corner of the street, was immense! Absolutely gorgeous.

There were cottages and colonials. Some homes with a strong bohemian Spanish influence, others were conservatively symmetrical. I adored them all.

The house below reminded me of some of the Walt Disney homes in Kansas City.

It’s always a win for me when a home has black windows. There is something strong and unyielding about black, beautiful windows.

Add in a little Nantucket for good measure…

Decidedly Californian (allll the heart eyes!)

Most all of the homes had a detached garage at the end of a side driveway – and they all matched the main house.

Many many many of the homes had authentic leaded glass windows. As you walked by, each individual pane glistened in the sunlight.

Some were completely decked out for Halloween. We have heard that the Fab 40 Christmas displays and decorations are unbelievable. I can’t wait to come back to see that!

I collect doorways in my mind. I appreciate and love a well-adorned doorway welcome.

The house below had a bright side room that was consumed by a grand piano. Perfection!

The house below, however, made me gasp. That pink! That pale, beautiful, baby pink against the clay tile roof and white gingerbread everything. I felt a little like Lady Bird, standing outside and admiring each detail.

Pink. White. Clay. Green. That might be my new favorite color combination!!

It was a beautifully sunny day with cool temperatures and the most perfect partner in home-admiring, photo-taking, sidewalk-stalking crime. It was nice to see such a strong resemblance of Kansas City being admired and respected in cool California.

As we were watching the movie, we both laughed out loud when Christine…bored and wanting to get out of her hometown of Sacramento…says to her friend in disgust, “Sacramento. It’s the Midwest of California.” -ha!

We’ll take it, Christine. 🙂

Green Asparagus, Purple Onions and Red Potatoes

from Scott Sutherland

A delicious and healthy side dish is always good. A colorful one is even better!

Asparagus and Red Potato Side Dish

  • Servings: approx. 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick and quartered
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, trim off tough ends by bending and breaking the bottom off
  • 1/4 of a medium red onion, cut in large chunks
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • cracked peppercorns


Mix all ingredients into a 10″ skillet. Drizzle with olive oil until coated. Season with sea salt and cracked peppercorns as desired.

Cook in oven or grill at 400 degrees, turning potatoes every 10 minutes until browned. Make sure potatoes are soft and cooked through – approximately 30 minutes.