Official Review: Reunion by Bruce Simonian

This is the story of a high school love affair that is on its way to end tragically, but has a surprise twist at the end.

The main character, Gina, suddenly leaves her friends and family behind in Lake Tahoe to start a new life for herself and her daughter in Tulsa. Throughout the years, this story oscillates between her current life in Tulsa, her past life in Lake Tahoe, and those closest to her. After Gina’s daughter Taylor gets diagnosed with lymphoma and her closest friend gets killed in a car accident, Gina decides to move her and Taylor back to Lake Tahoe.

Once settled back home, a dramatic “reunion” between the past and present adds a plot twist, and without giving too much away, know that everything turns out the way it’s supposed to be.

This story has a Soap Opera-like plot, choppy segues, and there were so many characters introduced in the beginning that it was kind of hard to keep track of them all. But living in Lake Tahoe, I resonated with the landmarks and locations mentioned and could see how the plot was plausible.

A Day in Seattle

space needleTwo Octobers ago, I planned to enter a longboarding contest outside of Seattle. I booked my flight, planned to stay at an Air B&B, started planning out my car rental… But when the day came to leave, I missed my flight. Not leaving work in time, Reno traffic, getting stuck behind a semi, Delta Airlines being Delta Airlines, you-name-it…I guess I wasn’t meant to go.

So approaching last October, as my roundtrip flight to Seattle was about to expire, I decided to use my credit for a quick getaway back to Seattle and see everything I could see in a day. Here’s how it went:chihuly3

Oct. 24, 11pm: Flew into Seattle-Tacoma Intl Airport, took the Link Light Rail to downtown

midnight: Once reaching downtown, took a cab to the City Hostel and was greeted with a mummy hanging out front. Oh, yeah, Halloween is coming up. Passed out in a bunk bed in an empty room.

pike placeOct. 25, 8:30am: woke up, showered, enjoyed a free continental breakfast in a hostel full of people, started walking. It was surprisingly sunny!

9:40am: made it to Pike’s Place! Never saw a fish fly, but loved the Farmers Market feel. Tried a chocolate-covered cherry at Chukar’s and didn’t bother trying to get a coffee at Starbucks since the line was around the corner.

chihuly210:25am: walked to the Space Needle, enjoyed the panoramic view from the top and enjoyed a coffee there. It was starting to get overcast.

11am: was totally enamored with Chihuly Garden and Glass. Bought my favorite moms cool gifts and took lots of pictures.

12:30pm: walked through Olympic Sculpture Park along the water and admired the art

1pm: made it to Miner’s Landing and had an Anchor Steam and delicious crab sandwich overlooking the pier at the Crab Pot.

chihuly1:40pm: meandered over to Pioneer Square and in my travel found misprinted Christmas cards at Pike Street Press and an original Punch Out arcade game at Bon Voyage Vintage.

2:30pm: it started raining so I dipped into Cow Chips for a cookie.

3pm: went through Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, one of the highlights of the trip. Entertaining, plus it was a way to get out of the rain and learn the history of Seattle.

rub w love4:30pm: walked back to the hostel and on the way window-shopped at kitche stores like Watson Kennedy Fine Home, Alki Arts, Finerie Colab (where they greet you with a truffle when you walk through the door)

6:40pm: had a seasoned sandwich at the Rub With Love Shack and a beer for dinner

9pm: back at the hostel, totally pooped and in bed

Oct. 26, 5am: grudgingly left the hostel and took a $20 shuttle to the airport

6am: flight out of Sea-Tec

11am: after a quick layover in SLC, I’m back in Reno by 11:20am

To follow my travels, find me on Instagram, Swarm or TripAdvisor

Official Review: Switch- “How to Change Things When Change is Hard”

By: Chip & Dan Heath

Listed one of the 5 business books to read this week by DailyWorth and a #1 New York Times bestseller, Switch is a great reference for how little things can create big changes.

The Heaths use this model to explain change: the Rider (the analytical side of us that sets goals and drive the energy), the Elephant (the energy behind the change) and the Path (the outcome and what sets the change in motion). To create change, you have to appeal to both the Rider and the Elephant…and Switch delves into the psychology of catering to the emotion of the Elephant and indecisiveness of the Rider.

“…if you reach the Riders of your team but not the Elephants, team members will have understanding without motivation. If you reach their Elephants but not their Riders, they’ll have passion without direction.” (pg. 8) How do you get the Elephant and the Rider to go hand in hand? That’s what this book is all about.

Switch introduces some good definitions on what inhibits change, like ”analysis paralysis”- the Rider spinning his wheels until he’s given direction and even instead of traditional psychology, using ”solutions-focused therapy”- focusing on solutions rather than the problems at hand, a “growth mindset”- those who stretch themselves and take risks versus a “fixed mindset”.

It’s about asking ourselves, “what’s working right now?” instead of “what’s broken and how do we fix it?” Solutions-focused therapy includes questions like, “if you were to wake up tomorrow and all of your problems had gone away, what would be different?” and then using small changes in behavior to get to that point.

This book also offers some true-to-life, clear-cut examples of how average people can make big changes, much in a Freakonomics or Outliers fashion. Some examples include: how a 1st grade teacher got her students to a 3rd grade level, how a professor of public management pulled off a successful government procurement reform, how malnourished children in Vietnam became healthy by simple changes to their diet, and how abusive parents stopped abusing their kids. “Clinics” are introduced throughout the book as real-life problems and simple solutions to them.

Here are some takeaways I got from the book:

-          What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity
-          Small victories can often trigger a positive spiral of behavior
-          Engineering early successes is engineering hope
-          You need quick wins to get fired up, and getting fired up is super-important
-          Sense of progress is critical, and if you want to lead a change effort you should lower the bar

There are tons of great examples here, but in conclusion, Switch present ways to evoke change that lasts, and it inspires hope that positive change really can happen.


The Poor Man’s Guide to Food, Booze, Skiing, and More in North(east) Lake Tahoe

By: Kayla Anderson,

Author Note: This is a play off of Thrillist’s “The Poor Man’s Guide to Food, Booze, Skiing, and More In North Lake Tahoe” because that article should’ve been called “The Poor Man’s Guide to Food, Booze, Skiing, and More In West Shore Lake Tahoe”. C’mon, what about us on the Northeast end of the lake?


Village Ski Loft
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $28 ski/snowboard rentals
The Lowdown: Located right on the main road across from the 76 gas station, Village Ski Loft has ski/snowboard equipment, clothing and merchandise to help you get all geared up before you hit the slopes. $28 for a ski or snowboard package is a steal.

Diamond Peak
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $119 for 3 Beginner lesson packages and a free all-mountain lift ticket/ equipment rental upon completion.
The Lowdown: $200 for 2 days of lessons, lift tickets, and equipment rentals compared to $119 for 3 days of lessons, lift tickets, and equipment rentals at Diamond Peak? Hmmm, tough choice for the poor man…


Besides the tax breaks, another nice thing about being in Nevada is your William Hill app finally works and you can try your luck at the slot machines in the Raley’s grocery store and at 7-11. Who knows…your crumpled $1 bill that you were going to use for some shitty cappuccino may just turn into $200 if you play your video poker machine cards right.

Tahoe Biltmore
Crystal Bay, NV
The Deal: Single deck blackjack table for $5 per hand
The Lowdown: The only place on the North Shore that has single deck blackjack, totally increasing your odds. And if you’re there on a Saturday night you may be able to hear some live music in The Breeze without having to pay.

Grand Casino Lodge (Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe)
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: Free Slot Tournaments on Thursdays
The Lowdown: Who says that broke people shouldn’t gamble? At the Hyatt’s casino, you can enter a FREE Thursday slot tournament for a chance to win some cold-hard cash. Then you can reinvest your winnings at the Sports Book.

Crystal Bay Club
Crystal Bay, NV
The Deal: A bottle of wine when you get a blackjack
The Lowdown: So you lost all your money at the blackjack table. At least you have that bottle of wine to share with your lady friend for that one Jack/Queen you beat the dealer with!


Alibi Brewery
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $6 REAL 16oz. pints, $2 mix and match tasters
The Lowdown: A cool new brewery (actually the only brewery on this side of the lake) with a modern vibe and excellent craft beer. Grab a $10 32oz growler and enjoy random music on some nights.

Wild Bill’s BBQ
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: Local’s Lunch- 2 hours of skiing and a $10 food voucher for $25 midweek
The Lowdown: Get a slow-cooked ½ chicken and side dish at the new BBQ joint on the base lodge deck of Diamond Peak for around $10. Fridays are the day to go because then you can take advantage of the Local’s Lunch deal- use your $10 lunch voucher at Wild Bill’s and get a couple hours of skiing in.

The Grid
Kings Beach, CA
The Deal: $5.99 for a burger, fries & Rolling Rock
The Lowdown: This is the local dive for Kings Beach ruffians. They have late night munchies galore and 8 kinds of burgers that you can get for only $5.99 Monday-Friday.

Jason’s Beachside Grille
Kings Beach, CA
The Deal: All-You-Can-Eat Salad Bar for $9.95
The Lowdown: For the vegan, gluten-free cheapskates out there, Jason’s Beachside Grille is the best place to be right on the water and load up on mixed greens, veggies and bean salads.

Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $5 white/red wines, $3-$4 beers, and 40% off select menu items
The Lowdown: Bite has a nice lounge-ish vibe and serves up delicious American tapas and sliders. However, portions tend to be small so it’s best to go during Happy Hour to pay a little less and have more stuff to share.

Crosby’s Pub
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: Daily Specials like meatloaf, pork chops, sloppy joes, and battered catfish
The Lowdown:  Crosby’s is like the bar in Cheers where everyone knows your name. Find friendly faces all over the place with a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and fresh-squeezed cocktails.

Fredrick’s Fusion Bistro
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: Ladies Night on Wednesdays- $5 Lavender Lemon drops, $5 small plates
The Lowdown: I went here when my roommate won $2400 off the poker slots at Crosby’s and just indulged. We got surf & turf, Moscow mules, a deep-fried Snickers bar, and lavender lemon drops to start with. It’s all good.

Bar Bar Bar
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $5 daily lunch pizza special
The Lowdown: Two slices of pizza with two toppings for only $5. This is a locals place with cheap beer and excellent pizza. Plus, Bridget the redhead is the best bartender in town.

Hacienda de la Sierra
Incline Village, NV
The Deal:  Mon-Fri Happy Hour from 4pm-6pm: $1 drafts, $3.75 margaritas, $2 tacos/nachos
The Lowdown: This place has at least 10 different kinds of margaritas and something going on pretty much every day of the week (ex. Sunday Seafood Fest and 2-for-1 Taco Tuesdays). Get the melon margarita for a bit more alcohol and then try to win your margaritas back at the video poker machines.

The Loft Bar
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $8 Build-Your-Own Bloody on Sundays
The Lowdown: Located up at Diamond Peak Ski Resort, the Loft Bar is a great place to wind down after a day on the slopes. The daily Happy Hour starts at 4pm with $4 Lakeview brews/Rolling Rocks and appetizers including pulled pork sliders, mac & cheese bites, taquitos, and more.

Koi Sushi
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $29.95 for All-You-Can-Eat sushi
The Lowdown: Pretty reasonable prices for sushi and a decent all-you-can-eat special. The quality of service is sporadic, but it is the only sushi restaurant in town to get your fix.

Indu’s Asian
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $7.99 Sri Lankan Soup
The Lowdown: If I tried to make this soup myself it would cost $40 and take me 12 hours. I don’t know how they do it.

Mountain High Sandwich Co.
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $10.50 House Smoked Turkey Pesto Avocado (with humanely raised organic turkey and organic veggies) sandwich
The Lowdown: This place appeals to the conscious traveler. I know organic food doesn’t always equal cheap, but the wraps/sandwiches will definitely fill you up.

Cutthroat’s Saloon
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $20 buckets of beer and live music on Saturdays
The Lowdown: Located inside the Hyatt, this is another great place to watch the game after placing your bets. They have signature habanero hot wings and crazy good deals on beer during football season.

Incline Village, NV
The Deal: Free popcorn (and sometimes free food on holidays)
The Lowdown: This is the #1 dive bar in Incline Village, even dive-ier than The Grid. Since it’s right across the street from Sierra Nevada College, you’ll find broke college kids munching on the free popcorn and playing darts. Be careful though, it’s dark inside, the drinks are cheap, and in Nevada the bars never close, so you can get sucked in ‘til the break of dawn like you were in Vegas.

Village Pub
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: Ping Pong, pool table, shuffleboard and cheap drinks
The Lowdown: This is the #2 dive bar in Incline Village with pretty good burgers and the only place with shuffleboard. Be careful of their CoCo Locos.


Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $5.99 breakfast before 11am; ½ price burgers on Tuesdays
The Lowdown: This is a good place to grab food late night after the bars in California close and watch people fall off the stripper pole.  (My roommate once broke his clavicle on that thing).


Java Hut
Kings Beach, CA
The Deal: Great breakfast sandwiches, chai lattes and it’s right on Lake Tahoe
The Lowdown: This Yelp review says it all- “Yeah, the guy with the dreads may or may not be high, but he was very friendly.”

IV Coffee Lab
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $5 for a mocha
The Lowdown: This is the only locally-owned coffee joint in Incline Village to rival the Starbucks across the street. Their coffee always tastes fresh. I may whoop the owners in E League softball in the summer, but they can definitely whoop me year-round in making coffee.

Art’s Coffee House
The Deal: $6.99 for a kielbasa breakfast burrito (basically two meals in one)
The Lowdown: This is a small little coffee shop that’s inside the Village Market. Sit in the sun and watch people go in and out of the Post Office in the morning and then go back to Bar Bar Bar in the afternoon for the $5 lunch special.


Hostel Tahoe
Kings Beach, CA
The Deal: $35 dorm rooms
The Lowdown: This is the only hostel on the North Shore and they have discounts on lift tickets, transportation from the Reno-Tahoe Airport, free Wi-Fi, and free bike use and luggage storage. The best place to stay on the cheap.

Parkside Inn at Tahoe
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $69-$87 for deluxe rooms
The Lowdown: These cozy little cabin rooms are right in walking distance to the Hacienda, the Paddlewheel, the Hyatt, and oh yeah, the lake. It’s also a 5-min. shuttle ride to Diamond Peak.

Tahoe Biltmore
Crystal Bay, NV
The Deal: $9.95 prime rib on Tuesdays, $2.22 Monday breakfast special, $1 beers during Happy Hour every day from 3-7pm and $49 rooms, valid non-holiday.
The Lowdown: Oh, and the $5 blackjack table.


Mt. Rose – Ski Tahoe
The Deal: Two ‘fer Tuesdays, $34 Ladies Day Thursdays
The Lowdown: Get two lift tickets for the price of one on Tuesdays, which is the best when a snowstorm rolls through on Mondays. Since they have the highest base elevation in Lake Tahoe, Mt. Rose tends to have the best snow. And hardcore lady skiers and snowboarders can take advantage of $34 lift tickets on Thursdays, which is a good enough reason for ladies to call in sick and ride The Chutes.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $35 lift ticket when you Bring Your Other Pass; $34 Last Tracks
The Lowdown: It’s easy to buy a season pass from a ski resort and then ski/ride at just that one spot all the time. But what about the days where you want to switch it up, try somewhere new? That’s where the BYOP deal is the best. Another way to enjoy the best views of Lake Tahoe is with Last Tracks: pay $34 for a lift ticket valid from 2-4pm, enjoy wine/beer tasting and appetizers from the mid-mountain Snowflake Lodge overlooking Lake Tahoe, and then ski/ride down a freshly groomed run down at sunset.


High Altitude Fitness
Incline Village, NV
The Deal:  $16 daily fee for the only rock climbing wall in North(east) Lake Tahoe
The Lowdown: Even the poorest of my friends seem to find their way to this rock climbing wall. HAF also has free weights, beer, and comfy chairs next to the fireplace.

Recreation Center
Incline Village, NV
The Deal: $15 daily fee for the only indoor swimming pool in North(east) Lake Tahoe
The Lowdown: Get full use of the gym, fitness center, swimming pool and special classes, including yoga and winter conditioning. As the website says, “whatever your favorite recreational activity, we hope to serve all of your needs”.


 Streaming consciousness of thought of my time in Nicaragua 

yogaLast November mi novio booked us a 2-week trip to Nicaragua. It was a whirlwind of new culture, adventures, and great food. I’ve pulled together some keywords on some of the places we visited and experiences had, and hopefully this can give you an broad (probably vague) picture of what Nicaragua is like.

Overall: simple food, hardworking people, off-the-grid eco-lodges, pinto gallo, free-range chickens/pigs/dogs, horses for rent, volcanoes, green jungle, packed chicken buses, hot rainstorms, birds singing at dawn, rojo floresvolcano boarding

San Juan Del Sur- mashing around on scooters to the beaches with the 3 M’s, Howlers bar, Mama Sara’s empanadas, surfing, family dinners at Buena Vista Surf Club, yoga overlooking the ocean, stooping on the porch with el gato, 2-for-1 rum drinks, open air cabanas, fireflies, gekkos on the ceiling, surfing small waves, 5k’s for causes, monkeys, single blonde girls walking around. Ben recommending Stephen King’s “On Writing”omotepe

Omotepe- riding the ferry with my scooter and high-centering it on a lava rock, banana fields, traffic jams with cows/pigs/dogs/horses, cobblestone streets, Tonas on the beach.

Corn Islands- homemade mosquito repellent/coconut oil/shampoo/conditioner/soap, no paved roads, walking through the jungle to get to our cabanas, white sand beaches, windy. Crabs coming out at night, hammocks on the ocean, cheap lobster granada green poolmeals, creole dialect, ceviche with freshly-caught conch, snorkeling around sunken boats on Big Corn, partying at the pool hall, Haus the cat burgler

Granada- horse-drawn carriages, looted churches, the bell tower, kayaking around the islets, the Pirate restaurant with a green pool, finger fish, teeter-totters, good food and shopping in the main square, one of Nica’s oldest cities, coconuts, sketchy at night, guapote.

Leon- volcano boarding, turtles cruising around the hostel, Che Guevara, meeting new friends, mojitos, beach party, Indio Viejo, pool hall Nica rules, parades w/ el presidente paper mache big heads, petty cabs, tight and confusing streets, iguanas.

Managua- pick-pockets, “it looks like a bomb hit it”, a place to pass through but not to stay, pretty Christmas che guavaradecorations up in mid-November, lots of traffic at night

My Nicaraguan playlist: “Come Get It Bae”- Pharrell Williams, anything Bob Marley, “Cola Song”- Inna

<Check out my Instagram for all of my Nicaraguan photos>

Where to Ring in 2015 in North Lake Tahoe

mt rose

The days are filled with skiing and snowboarding, but where to celebrate the new year? Here are a couple of events I’m looking at:

Mt. Rose’s 50th Anniversary Celebration
Mt. Rose, 3pm-6pm
Live music at the Main Lodge followed by a torchlight parade and fireworks show.

Northstar California
New Year’s Eve Fire & Ice Celebration, 7-9:15pm
DJ’s all day in the Village with a Tom Petty tribute band & fireworks at 9pm

Squaw Valley
Fireworks, Olympic House Party, 6:30pm-2am
Torchlight parade at 6:30pm, fireworks show at 7pm, then a raging party for those 21+ at the Olympic House from 9pm-2am

Pastime Pub
Free New Year’s Show, Truckee, 9pm-2am
Free show (Actors Killed Lincoln) and Jagermeister goodies all night

If I decide to take it easy…

Carnelian Bay, CA
New Year’s Eve dinner specials with complimentary champagne and party favors at midnight

Incline Village @ Midnight
Enjoy a champagne toast with the locals


West Shore CafeWSC_BrunchishLunchPage
Homewood, CA
$20 endless mimosas on New Year’s Day from 3pm-9pm with a gorgeous view of the lake- yes, please!