Family Attractions in Lake Tahoe

With the world’s largest alpine lake at its center, beautiful Lake Tahoe is a wonderful family destination offering plenty of mountain sports and activities for kids of all ages, with a “winter” season that begins around Thanksgiving and lasts through early summer.

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Happy Trails

Our family resort hopped across Tahoe starting with the massive Squaw Valley, which got a $24 million facelift in 2012.  The terrain has endless expanses of trails and family friendly options, with beginner, intermediate and advanced trails often using the same chair lifts.  The view from the 1960s Olympic skating rink at the top of the tram is a sight to behold, and skating costs just $12 an hour for adults and $6 for kids, including rentals.

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Learning to ice skate at Squaw Valley



Diamond in the Snow

At a gem of a resort, Diamond Peak, our family took a private ski lesson together.  With expert instruction, our five year-old son progressed at an amazing rate from snowplowing to paralleling. The resort has lots of wide open trails that families can ski together.  Diamond Peak’s owners also own the Incline Village Recreation Center about a mile from the base lodge.  The huge complex features a pool, sauna, basketball and other sport facilities, along with a massage therapist on site.

Incline Village Rec Center

Incline Village Rec Center

Like Heaven

The aptly named Heavenly features vast terrain for skiers and riders of every ability and preference, including a Roundabout trail that that winds around the mountain and is a better thigh burner than any Suzanne Somers contraption.

Children’s ski lessons at Heavenly are impressively streamlined with kids quickly placed in groups by skill level and whisked off to the slopes.  Despite my son’s initial separation anxiety, by lunchtime he was downing hot chocolate and cookies in the lodge with a new gaggle of friends.  By day’s end he conquered intermediate runs with full confidence.  Highlights of the lesson were captured digitally courtesy of EpicMix, a very cool photo service that snaps pics on the slopes that you can access and buy online.

Souvinier pics on the slopes from EpicMix

Souvinier pics on the slopes from EpicMix

Skis In, Skis Out

We rented skis through Black-Tie Rentals. They brought our skis to our hotel for fitting and picked them up at the bottom of the slopes when we were done. Our high performance equipment was in tip-top shape, and the service was outstanding.

Black-Tie Rentals in-room fitting

Black-Tie Rentals in-room fitting

Going Sno-Mobile

A private snowmobile tour by Zephyr Cove Resort was a highlight of our trip.  Our guide led us over the hills and through the woods atop of our ultra-powerful luxury snowmobiles, outfitted with hand warmers.  The tour was complete with a break for hot chocolate, made from melted snow.

Snowmobiling on luxury machines (adult supervision required, as in riding in back)

Snowmobiling on luxury machines (adult supervision required, as in riding in back)

After Apres-Ski

The Lone Eagle Grille at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casinois one of the area’s finest dining establishments with a wonderful ambiance and blazing fireplaces.  The menu includes delectable dishes like Durham Ranch Bison Tenderloin, pan seared California Sturgeon and the fabulous Baked Tahoe dessert.

Baked Tahoe dessert

Baked Tahoe dessert

Local favorite Azzarra’s at Incline Village serves up authentic Italian cuisine in a relaxed family friendly atmosphere.  The generous portions of seafood paella, swordfish over an awesome risotto, and traditional spaghetti with meatballs were all superb.

Another Incline Village locals’ favorite is Austin’s, a tiny 13-table restaurant with great down-home Tahoe charm and mountain country cooking.  Popular dishes include chicken fried steak, classic meat loaf and a legendary rib eye steak.

Austin's dining room

Austin’s dining room

South Lake Tahoe’s Riva Grill offers stunning views and décor of polished wood, just like Milan’s famed Riva sleek wood boats.  The artful menu consists of gourmet comfort foods like pork ribs with a pomegranate glaze, rib eye char grilled with rum peppercorn sauce and a wonderful bread pudding with Callebaut dark chocolate.

Riva Grille on the water

Riva Grille on the water

The Other Side of Cal-Neva

Our family stayed at Cal-Neva Resort, Spa and Casino, located in North Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada borderline, divided down the middle of its banquet hall, swimming pool and grand fireplace with a painted stateline.  The hotel was once the hangout of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pak who used its famous network of underground tunnels to escape fan mobs.

Cal-Neva Resort tunnel

Cal-Neva Resort tunnel

The Cal-Neva is past its glory days, but the beds are comfy, and the housekeepers kept our room impressively clean and neat.  Best of all, it is very affordable with spacious rooms.

The stateline down the middle of the hearth at Cal-Neva

The stateline down the middle of the hearth at Cal-Neva

For Kids Only, and Their Parents, and Everyone Else

On our way out we stopped at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum.  Our son had a blast exploring the hands-on Nevada-themed interactive science, nature, history, math, music and art exhibits.

Reno Children's Discovery Museum

Reno Children’s Discovery Museum

Tahoe’s majestic mountain peaks seem a world away from home, but Tahoe is just an hour flight from Los Angeles.  Though we were sad to leave, the good news is that in a few more months we can discover a whole different Tahoe in summer.


Lake Tahoe on Dwellable

Blendtec: The Smartest Blender in the Room

ImageIf you judge a kitchen by its appliances, then the kitchen with the Blendtec is one to shine.  I was fortunate to get my Blendtec Designer Series WildSide the week my son and I were both home sick with colds.  I didn’t feel much like cooking, but blending with this machine gave me a boost.

Literally, this hi-tec high-speed mixing machine covers soups to nuts.  It comes with a fascinating recipe book of more than 200 concoctions including unusual offerings such as spinach ice cream, avocado soup and almond milk.  My first blend was a golden oldie — the vitamin-C-loaded cold-busting Orange Julicious, the mall shop style fave that until I had never been able to reproduce, lacking both the secret ingredient revealed in the recipe – yellow squash, and the blender that could do the job right.

I had thought my margarita maker was impressive, with its two-speed program that automatically went from crushing to blending, but the Blendtec puts the other machine under the table.  The Blendtec  switches itself from low to high and everything in between and features a digital countdown display, touch controls and easy-to-understand icons indicating the proper blend to get just the right texture for batters, sauces, smoothies, ice cream, yogurt, juices, soups and more.

Not only does it blend like a master, the Blendtec looks great on your counter top too.  The designer series features a brushed stainless base made with die-cast copper, available in stylish metallic champagne, red, cream or black finishes.

The two jar system makes it easy to prep one recipe while serving another, and the easy clean up – five to 10 seconds on pulse cycle with warm water and dish soap, makes Blendtec the perfect appliance for sick days, or any day when you just want a quick, easy and nutritious meal or pick-me-up, without a big mess.

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As you’d expect from a cutting-edge manufacturer, Blendtec has some very cool marketing, including a video series, viewable at willitblend.com, that mixes in a dash of humor while demonstrating the machine’s awesome abilities.

The WildSide Designer is priced from $454.95 to $499.95.  You can find sellers of Blendtec products or buy direct at www.blendtec.com.

Spruce Up Your Living Space for Rent

Tips to Give Your Rental Property Online Curb Appeal

As rent-it-yourself sites like airbnb, vrbo, and homeaway are on the rise, so is competition among would-be landlords to make their rentals appealing.  Here are some tips for refurbishing, redecorating and refreshing your extra space to get it rental ready.

Dinner for One

Bette Davis once opined that the secret to a successful marriage was separate bathrooms.  In the case of housemates, the key is separate kitchens.  Create a guest house kitchen or an in-room kitchenette with BrylaneHome’s Kitchen Cart with Breakfast Bar ($449, www.BrylaneHome.com).  The rolling solid wood cart features storage cabinets and drawers to hold pots and pans, dishes and flatware as well as food items.  Add stools, and the drop leaf can suffice as a dining table.

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BrylaneHome’s Kitchen Cart and Breakfast Bar is the centerpiece of a guest kitchenette.

Atop the cart guests can stir up dinner using the portable and compact NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop ($119.95, www.nuwavepic.com), a safe alternative to hot plates that uses electro-magnetic power to heat up and cook food fast.

The NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop offers a safe alternative to hotplates in a guest room or guest house.

The NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop offers a safe alternative to hotplates in a guest room or guest house.

 

“B” is for “Bed”

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Ultra-soft Sleep TiTe Sheets by BrylaneHome are designed to stay put on deep mattresses up to 20 inches.

Gone are the days of putting your old worn mattress out to pasture in your guest room.  Today the measure of your hospitality is in the bed you offer – after all, it’s the “B” in B&B.  Besides a premium mattress, decorative linens and dreamy sheets will lull your guests into sweet slumber.  Sleep TiTe Sheets ($49 to $89, www.BrylaneHome.com) are ultra-soft 100-percent cotton 300-thread count sheets designed to stay put, even on deep mattress up to 20 inches.  Top off the bed with a designer comforter and an abundance of pillows.  Note:  Photos of the bed in rental postings is often the one shot that will make or break a booking, so make it look inviting.

Neat Freak

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Give them a Shark Pet Perfect II Cordless Hand Vac and guests will be glad to clean up after themselves.

Most sublessors do not employ housekeeping staff, so how do you keep the place tidy between maid visits?  Give them the tools, and they will clean.  Stock the broom closet with a Shark Pet Perfect II Cordless Hand Vac ($59.99, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Best Buy, and Lowe’s), a Swiffer Wet Jet, a bucket, rags, multipurpose cleaner, latex gloves and other cleaning accoutrement so that guests can neaten up during their stay.

Privacy Please

Though a rental space may be attached to your home, it is not likely your tenants desire to be privy with your household business, or vice versa.  Where possible, install doors or partitions that clearly delineate private space from communal areas. Seal off doors with under-door extensions and insulation stripping to create a sound barrier.  Most of these supplies can be found at your local hardware store.

Lock Step

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SimpliciKey electronic deadbolt can be programmed with alphanumeric codes for each guest.

If you have a revolving door of tenants, rid yourself of worry about lost (or duplicated) keys with the Simplickey electronic deadbolt ($249.99, www.simplicikey.com).  Its keypad, hidden behind a slide-away panel, can be programmed with up to 16 alphanumeric codes for entry which can be deleted after each guest leaves.

 

Oscar Gifting Suite Finds Niche with Celebrity Parents

Jayneoni Moore’s Boom Boom Room Studio Previews Hot New Products for Kids, Raises Funds for First Books Charity

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Lisa LIng visits the pre-Oscar Boom Boom Room gifting suite

Everyone has heard about the lavish gift baskets and gifting suites that have become as much a part of Hollywood’s award season as red carpets.  Companies give away their goods and services to nominees and celebrities with hopes these powerful media influencers will generate buzz about their products.  Ideally the celebs will show off those products in photos, which is a tantamount to an unofficial endorsement.

Jayneoni Moore, a fashion television personality and celebrity nursery designer, found a way to stand out in the gifting scene by offering celebrities not swag for themselves but for their little ones.  Moore’s Boom Boom Room Studio pre-Oscar gifting suite, and her other events in conjunction with various award ceremonies, targets celebrities who are expecting or new parents.  The event is a chance for celebs to meet, greet and take away samples from big brands as well as boutique vendors of children’s toys, gear and apparel.

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Dad Jackson Rathbone, mom Sheila Hafsadi and son Monroe stop by to visit the momprenuers of Mommy-Baby Bonding Blanket.

The 2013 Oscar-eve event at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills offered guests a trove of treats and goodies, such new Fisher-Price toys from their Imaginext line, adorable and eco-friendly Funkins  table linens for kids,  a month of free Blessed Bums cloth-to-compost diapers, bows for girly babies from the Hair Candy Store, designer cookie treats from The Cookie Jar, wearable teaching moments from Mightee Kids, and Mommy-Baby Bonding Blankets, a small but big-hearted company which just announced a campaign to send their fuzzy baby blankets to service members overseas so they can cuddle with them and send them home with their scent to ease separation with little loved ones.

Besides freebies for celebrity guests, Boom Boom Room Studio events have included DJ entertainment, face painting, cookie and candy making and other kid-friendly activities, and donations collected at this year’s event benefited the children’s First Book to help build libraries in low income classrooms.