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Summer Daze

I am a huge fan of Tahoe in summer. Well, of Tahoe at any time, but especially in summer. It’s not too hot, the water is glassy, the shores are golden and the days are long. 

Unfortunately, summer is about to come to a screeching halt for us: My oldest daughter begins first grade on Monday and my middle daughter starts preschool the following week. The upside is that this will force me into being a productive human once again. Between beach, summer and baby (especially baby), my brain has been on hiatus the last few months. I’ve already got a growing to do list, but I think I will enjoy these last few glorious days of summer and put off the list until next week!

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Book Review: The Vacationers

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Maria Semple’s praise for Emma Straub’s “The Vacationers” calls it witty and bighearted and promises to “leave you smiling for days.” After finishing, all I can think is how on earth did Maria Semple and I read the same book?

“The Vacationers” popped up in my google searches as being in the same vein as Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”, which I loved.

This was nothing like Bernadette. The characters were shallow and boring, as was the plot. This is the tale of characters going on a Spanish island vacation after the husband had an affair with a much younger coworker. They are joined by their teenage-angsty daughter, their worthless son and his girlfriend, whom everyone hates for no real reason except that she’s 10 years older than the son, plus their gay friends. I found a lot of the plot unbelievable (how do magazine writers afford a giant home in Manhattan? And how is an affair something that would make headlines? I kept thinking there was going to be some twist, something kinky or weird that would have made it newsworthy, but it was a pretty basic, boring affair).

Nothing really happens except the characters treat each other pretty horribly: The wife seems to be openly in love with her gay friend Charles (to the point of bathing with him in the room) and cares more about him than her husband; her husband later seems to “prove” his love for her by stalking her on a motorcycle; the daughter seems happiest whenever she’s mean to her mother; the son is just miserable. Carmen, the girlfriend, is the only character (except perhaps Charles’ partner Lawrence) who is worth liking: She helps out around the house, she tries to help her boyfriend with her problems and she keeps the secret of the husband’s affair. Yet, because of her age, and possibly because she’s Cuban American or the family doesn’t like the way they dress, everyone hates her, even making jokes about her drowning, and when she tries to empathize with the husband and confide that her parents had problems, he’s uncomfortable and just tries to think of ways to get away from her.

I gave “The Vacationers” two out of five stars on goodreads, in part because I did finish (though I kept going because I thought there’d be some great twist, which there wasn’t) and partly because I think this book shows that any aspiring writer who worries whether or not their work is good enough to be published can read this and realize that pretty much anything can be not only published, but also get glowing reviews.

Proofing the Summer Issue

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Just completed a second proof of TQ’s Summer issue with my newest work buddy! Willa was just three weeks old for her first venture up to Tahoe Quarterly, where she managed to spit up on my coworkers, and four weeks for her second day, which I managed to keep her sleeping through. Sleeping babies make the work day WAY easier!

On that note, the Summer issue looks great! Lots of good stories: An article about Tahoe’s lone wolverine, a feature about surfboard maker Craig Beck, a piece about five-time Olympian and Truckee resident Katerina Nash, and much more. And, the issue celebrates Sylas’s one-year anniversary as TQ editor, so big congrats on that!

We have a long-ish break until the next issue, Ski & Ride, so I plan on spending it napping hanging out with Willa. Happy Summer!

Best of Tahoe Issue!

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img_7708Excited to announce that Tahoe Quarterly’s Best of Tahoe issue is on stands now! I had a lot of fun with this issue: I decided to tackle the wooden bear carvings so ubiquitous around Lake Tahoe and look at some of the carvers who create them. I interviewed carvers John Hill, Gerald Toste and Ron Ramsey for my article, “The Right to Bear Arts.” Pretty interesting how so many people buy a second home in the area and immediately buy a bear, or who want to one-up their neighbors by commissioning a larger bear!

Some great stories in this issue. I really enjoyed the piece about San Francisco Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, who lives in Reno and is dealing with a muscle disease called inclusion-body myositis. There’s also a piece reflecting on this year’s monster snow year, another on part-time Truckee resident and former MLB player Eric Byrnes, and an article on the Tahoe area’s rock climbing history.

Great stories and beautiful photography, so pick up a copy if you’re in the area!

TQ Mountain Home Awards!

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The TQ Mountain Home issue is on stands now! This is my absolute favorite issue of the year: We get to tour some unbelievable residential and commercial projects around Lake Tahoe, then talk with the owners, architects, builders and interior designers about how the project was envisioned and how it came together.

img_1478I’m particularly proud this year as I wrote the piece about this year’s Outstanding winner, a Martis Camp Home designed and created by Scott Gillespie, Mark Tanner and Napa’s Erin Martin (and the home featured on the cover). A lot of homes that I write about emphasize the fact that the team was on board from the beginning (as was the case for the home I wrote about that won the Craftsmanship award). The interesting thing about this home is that it evolved as the team grew; Erin wasn’t available until the home was in the framing stages. As her vision differed from much of the design, pieces of the home were torn up and redone. While it may have made for a longer process, it also made for a really incredible final result.

Besides the amazing homes, there is a lot of additional great content: a story about wolves returning to the Sierra, a profile on Western artist Charles Muench and an interesting piece about the benefits of using wool for home insulation. Like I said, this is my favorite issue of the year, so I highly recommend picking up an issue or subscribing online!

Last Days at SNC!

Well, it’s official: Monday was the last day of my editing class (where my students brought in champagne and a very sweet card and gift), Wednesday I gave the final for my journalism class and just now I pressed “submit” on my final grades!

Sierra Nevada College is such a unique college and I really enjoyed teaching. The students are more involved than I ever remember students being at Penn State, and took such active roles in their own education. Add to that, the staff is very hands-on, as well. As soon as any staff noticed a student struggling, there was a team of people ready to help or redirect so that the student got all the help possible. It was a really cool thing to be a part of, not only because of the environment, but also, because I had such small classes, I felt like I could really see improvements in (at least some) students, which was so cool to feel like I really had an impact. Anyway, I think there are exciting changes for the program ahead and I’m looking forward to seeing the changes and improvements at SNC moving forward! In the meantime, I’m looking forward to having my days back—I never realized how many hours of planning could go into each 1.25 hour class! I think I’m treating myself to a much-needed pedicure next week!

Ending the SNC Semester!

Big day as today was basically my last day teaching at Sierra Nevada College! Next week we’ll spend Monday editing and preparing to produce the seventh and final issue of the Eagle’s Eye for the semester, then Wednesday my journalism class has its final.

The semester seems like it flew by. I’ve loved teaching, but it will be nice to take a break. The journalism department at SNC is undergoing a transformation, so classes are combining and changing. Which I think will lead to some good and necessary changes for the program. Right now, the biggest issue is the lack of students in the journalism classes (my workshop class, for example, had only two students), so I think combining them will be a nice way to get bigger class sizes, more collaboration and more crossing over between subjects, so that journalism can, as it’s doing in real life, hopefully cross over to more mediums than just print.

I also spent this morning touring a lakeside Incline Village home. Beautiful remodel designed by the talented Elise Fett, and very enjoyable to be able to not just tour but also meet the wonderful homeowners. I should tour my remaining homes next week, then hopefully power through my articles before the holidays gear up entirely. I feel like it’s an ambitious goal given the other things going on, but here’s hoping! And either way, it’ll be nice to make a dent in the workload before the Christmas chaos.