Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Happy birthday Ben!

March 24, 2015
Happy birthday!
I'm someone who loves birthdays. I especially love my own birthday, but I also get pretty excited about Ben's, especially as it presents a perfect excuse to plan a weekend away (see Point Arena Lighthouse, 2013). Ben's birthday falls during the best part of ski season, so where better to spend his birthday than Tahoe?

Our typical Tahoe weekend involves waking up at 5 a.m., driving four hours, skiing, driving an hour, relaxing in the hot tub, eating dinner, collapsing at 9 p.m. in our cheap motel room, eating quick bread at Starbucks, driving an hour, skiing, then driving four hours home. As you can tell, it's exhausting and not particularly luxurious.

Ben's birthday weekend started out differently. He left work early and we drove up to Gold Country for an Iberian-themed tapas dinner at Runquist winery. The winery is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Amador County, one of California's newer wine-making regions. They almost exclusively make red wines, with some unusual varietals and a focus on balanced, not-too-tannic wine (we discovered them on my birthday trip and are members of their wine club). We hadn't attended a wine club event before, but after this one, we'll definitely be going back for more. We sat by a fire, eating delicious food and drinking unlimited amounts of excellent wine while the winemaker fed the fire with old oak barrels and cooked up "dirty steak." I even got a dozen strangers to sing "happy birthday" to Ben.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Sutter Creek, where the innkeeper implied that we were a bit younger than their standard clientele (we were also by far the youngest attendees at dinner). The next morning, we wandered around the towns of Sutter Creek and Amador City before continuing to Tahoe.

Objectively speaking, this ski season has been a bust —we've had fun, but 159 inches is pathetic for resorts that average more than 500 inches. Less than thrilled about the skiing conditions, we decided to hike instead. A lot of roads close in the winter so it took us a while to find an accessible trail. We finally settled on a 6.5-mile hike to Dardanelles Lake, which worked out perfectly — it was a good length, a good level of strenuousness and terminated at a beautiful alpine lake (see photos at end of post). We realized we hadn't done any real hiking in months and definitely want to come back to Tahoe to hike this summer.

Instead of staying at our standard motel, I booked a room at 968 Park Hotel, which bills itself as a "pinnacle of sustainability, style and comfort." We knew it could be our last weekend in Tahoe for the winter so we chose our restaurants carefully. The first night we ate at our favorite Basecamp Pizza and for Ben's birthday we tried a new brewpub, Cold Water Brewery and Grill. Our beer flight lineup: Water House Wheat, Mr. Toad's Wild Rye, Ninkasi Oatis Stout, Heretic's Evil Twin Amber, Le Freak Belgian IPA and Ellie's Brown Ale.

For our final day, we planned to finally hit the slopes at Heavenly, but they shut down the mountain due to 30mph gusts. We drove up to Northstar, where the snow wasn't great, but we found a few good runs to potentially cap off the season. Fingers crossed we'll get one more storm.

Birthday selfie
dardanelles lake tahoe
Granite cliffs above Dardanelles Lake

Must climb rock
Big Meadow
bridge hiking lake tahoe
Almost back to the trailhead
Don't fall
Dwarfed by the trees

We're scheming how to get our hands on a wine barrel.
dirty steak
"Dirty steak" at Runquist winery

- Steph

Video: It finally snowed!

March 15, 2015
Last weekend, Steph's dad visited us to ski for five days at three Tahoe mountains (photos here). I put together this video from our GoPro footage:

(Best viewed at 1080p quality.)

Fortunately, the weekend before he arrived, it finally snowed! You would not believe how happy we were to see snow. We were sitting at a rest stop on I-80 because they had closed the road to Tahoe and we weren't even upset. We just kept saying, "It's snowing! It's snowing!" We even made a snowman as we waited. It was 1 p.m. by the time we hit the slopes, but who cares? For the first time all season, we had fresh snow. Here's the highlight reel of 17" of cold, light powder (compiled by Steph):

- Ben

Austin getaway

March 13, 2015

The list of the American cities I most want to visit: Chicago and New Orleans, followed by Los Angeles, Charleston and Santa Fe. Austin used to be near the top of that list, but now I can cross it off as I was there in January! I met up there with one of my good friends who lives on the East Coast (we split the distance). We visited the LBJ Presidential Library, enjoyed a show at Esther's Follies, listened to live music and wandered around all the quirky stores. It was an awesome trip (Ben was a bit jealous, so we'll have to return together sometime soon).

Non-Photoshopped version


- Steph

Cheers to snow

March 12, 2015
Champagne on the slopes at Northstar

For years, my family has talked about skiing out West, and ever since Ben and I moved to California, my dad has been planning to come out and ski with us. This year, he bought plane tickets and then we had one of the driest years on record (currently, our snowpack is only 27% of average). He almost cancelled his trip, but luckily he didn't, because somehow the skiing still managed to be fantastic. We skied five days in total — one at Northstar, one at Heavenly and three at Kirkwood. Ben compiled our GoPro footage into a fantastic video, but for starters, here are a few photos.

The backside at Kirkwood
I love my new skis
Riding the gondola at Heavenly
Lake, snow, desert at Heavenly
Ben on the slopes at Kirkwood
Tahoe is beautiful
Thunder Saddle is exhausting

Riding the lift at Kirkwood
Volkl rules the slopes —Volkl Kendo (Ben), Volkl Aura (Steph), Volkl Supersport (Kip)
Everyone's happy when the sun is shining
Ski patrol golden retriever!
- Steph

Quick breads for skiing

February 27, 2015

When we go up skiing, I usually make a quick bread to bring for breakfast. I've even gotten comfortable enough that I've started making up my own recipes. So far, I've created my own apple bread and carrot bread.

Apple Bread
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen and Joy the Baker

Note: As this was a bit too moist, I'll probably add more flour next time.

1 cup grated apples
1 cup coarsely chopped apples
1/2 cup (62g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (65g) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (48g) almond meal
1/2 cup (55g) chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (40g) oats
1/2 cup (100g) + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
generous pinch freshly ground nutmeg
2/3 cup buttermilk (substitutions)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Put the chopped apples in a bowl of warm water with a squeeze of lemon and let them sit. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, nuts, oats, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the grated apples and chopped apples. Fold to incorporate thoroughly. Spoon batter into prepared pan and top with remaining brown sugar.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Carrot Bread
Inspired by Food.com and Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cups (195g) whole wheat flour
1/2 (40g) cup oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
2 cups (255g) carrots, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (55g) nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir grated carrots into wet ingredients until evenly coated, then stir wet ingredients into dry just until no floury bits remain. Fold in nuts.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

- Steph

Video: Snow, wind and skiing

February 26, 2015
It's gotten to the point where we get excited over an inch of snow. An inch. That's what we got last weekend and it was the only time we've seen fresh snow all year. In honor of the "snow," we put together our first GoPro video of the season. It's a very rough cut, but the snow and wind made for some cool footage. The forecast predicts we'll get 8-12 inches this weekend, so hopefully our next video will feature real snow.

- Steph

8 hours in Sacramento

February 12, 2015
We were planning to spend all winter skiing, but then New England stole all the snow and we've ended up with a lot more weekends to fill than we expected. We spent one of those Saturdays in Sacramento, our state capital which we had bypassed on prior trips.

We started at the California State Railroad Museum, with its restored locomotives and railroad cars. I had chosen the museum mostly because I thought Ben would like it, but turns out that I think old trains are pretty cool too. The transcontinental railroad was conceived in Sacramento and construction began in 1863. It took six years to complete the Central Pacific Railroad, connecting Sacramento with the Union Pacific Railroad in Promontory, Utah. The railroad cut the travel time from New York to California to six days, a journey that took months on horseback.

The best part of our visit was our private tour from one of the docents. Ben wanted to better understand the mechanics of how steam engines work so we asked one of the docents where we could find an exhibit explaining it. He was so thrilled with our question that instead of taking us to the exhibit, he toured us around the museum himself, using the different models to explain steam locomotion.

For the rest of the afternoon, we walked around the touristy section of Sacramento ("Old Sacramento") with its preserved Gold Rush-era buildings and modern shops (we found this guy in an antiques shop). Then we continued west to ski at Northstar the next day.

Old Town Sacramento
Along the Sacramento River
Dome at the California State Capitol
- Steph

Meet Leo

January 20, 2015
We went to Massachusetts for Christmas as usual, but this year we had an extra-special guest.

Meet Leo. Leo arrived at my parents' house the week before Christmas. He was 14 weeks old and weighed 18 pounds. He has already acquired several nicknames — "the little guy," "the creature" and "chub-boy," to name a few — and his favorite activities include eating sticks, doing the moonwalk and playing with his great-grandfather.

I'm going to get you great-grandpa.

Of course we were head over heels in love with Leo (and Alex) and couldn't resist taking tons of photos of them.

Left: Leo on the car ride, before he threw up on me. Right: Leo sleeping in his pen when he got home. 

Leo learns to program

- Steph