20130925-213326.jpgDid you hear the AMAZING NEWS????????? Team Oracle USA won the American’s Cup!!!!!!!!!!!! Had you told me that during the last time they raced, I would have said, “Oh neat. What sport are we talking about again?” But this year is different. Because we went to the America’s Cup. We saw it with our own eyes. We cheered for America.  And let me tell you what…nothing’s better than cheering for America! It was a fluke that I took the kids down to San Francisco. Darrin was out of town and we didn’t have any plans so I put everyone in the car and just drove. And the weekend was so great, so easy and so totally doable, I wanted to share it with you all so you can do it too. Ok, here’s what you do.

Get out of bed early Saturday morning. Throw everyone in the car and drive to Truckee. Grab a coffee and pastry at The Coffee Bar at 10120 Jibboom Street. It’s fabulous and a perfect potty stop to make sure you make it the rest of the way. You then drive to Walnut Creek (2 1/2 more hours) where you are staying at the Embassy Suites. It’s important you stay there… I’ll explain why in a moment. Now, you go to downtown WC and shop till you drop.  As you can see, my kids went to town!


Seriously! Walnut Creek is now known as the Rodeo Drive of the north. It has everything. And it’s beautiful. When I grew up in Walnut Creek, we had a Bullocks. Then came Nordstrom… and Neiman Marcus and Tiffany… truly, the list goes on (except for Justice which I think is totally weird and my 9-year-old daughter thinks is totally ridiculous!) And then, you eat. Just take your pick, people. There are more restaurants in Walnut Creek than there are bars in San Sebastián, Spain. Just drive down Main Street and pick the one that looks good to you. There are literally dozens to choose from. If you want old school Walnut Creek, eat at Sunrise Bistro for breakfast (http://sunrisebistrocatering.com/). Enjoy Lark Creek for dinner (http://www.onemarket.com/larkcreek/walnut_creek/index.html) And if you want to check out one of my favorite hangouts for cocktailing stop by Crogan’s (http://www.crogansbarandgrill.com/) After a fun night on the town in WC, you’ll head back to Embassy Suites (about 2 miles outside of downtown WC) where you are perfectly situated to catch BART in the morning.  Literally the hotel is in the BART parking lot.  The train schedule is online at http://www.bart.gov/schedules/bystation.aspx  You are actually at the Pleasant Hill Station.  20130925-213314.jpg It looks like this:









 You can also figure out how much your BART fare will be here http://www.bart.gov/tickets/calculator/index.aspx  For most places in SF from Pleasant Hill it’s $10 round trip per person.  Once on the train, you will go through a long tunnel (which is actually the train going under the water of the bay… that freaked my kids out!) and you will pop out in San Francisco.  We got off at the first stop which is Embarcadero.  This took us to the piers where the America’s Cup was happening.  It also is your stop for Pier 39 if that’s your style.  Get off at Powell if you want Union Square and SF shopping.  We stayed at the races…


meeting the teammates for both New Zealand and Team USA….


and of course chanting USA-USA-USA…


until 3 in the afternoon.  After that, we caught BART, now heading toward Pittsburg/Bay Point, got off at Pleasant Hill and picked up our car and headed east to Reno.  After a stop at Ikeda’s in Auburn, we got home at 8:30.  Really, a perfect get away for a family or just you and your honey.  Even without the American’s Cup, San Francisco is fun to hang out in for a few hours and now that I’ve given you a glimpse of the town I grew up in, I hope you go check out Walnut Creek too.  And hopefully, just hopefully, Oracle Team USA will decide to host the American’s Cup in San Francisco the next go around!  If so, I’ll see you down there!



One of life’s greatest pleasures, ok maybe I just see it this way, is having an ice cold beer after a dirty workout. Now, I say dirty, because the beer only tastes sinfully good to me after a trail run, mountain bike ride or any other outdoor activity where you finish back at the car filthy. Mud on shoes, dirt like warpaint on your face, fingernails black. I love those workouts. And I almost love the post beer just as much. So imagine my pure pleasure when Darrin and I discovered The Brewing Lair.




It’s Blairsden’s (about 70 minutes outside of reno) newest gem. But unlike the bakery, which is right on mainstreet, the brewery is a bit harder to find. It’s off Highway 70 about a hundred yards to the east of the turnoff into Blairsden.




There’s a small sign on the highway…








and then this guy…


to assure you you’re on the right dirt road. And at the top, a beer lover’s haven.


The building is small, but hip. The conditioning tanks line the walls, beermaster Rich never stops moving as he does everything from pouring beers to washing the glasses, and then there’s the tour.








It’s a self guided tour that takes you around the property as you sip on 5 different beers Rich is highlighting. On our stop, one of them tasted like a bite of pizza! It was earthy and herby and finished off with a hint of oregano. Oddly delicious! The IPAs, which is my favorite type of beer, were all fantastic. Be sure to try the red. And you know why this is such a great brewery?? Yes, the beer… but because of this!








You got that right. A frizbe, or the cool cats call it disc, golf course.  And Rich even thought of things for the kids to do.










Eva and Domi love slack lines and sure enough, The Brewing Lair has one. Dogs are even allowed here, off leash! The property expands into the timber so there’s plenty of land to explore. But most, just sit at the picnic tables enjoying the beer. Oh ya, and there’s no food. But Rich is fine with you bringing in your own!








So here’s your plan the next time you head up to the Graelge area. Drive to main street Blairsden. On the left, there’s a new food truck (I’m guessing during summer only) that has great pulled pork sandwiches. Grab enough of those for your party, head back to the brewery ( a 2 minute drive) and enjoy your afternoon.


Stay thirsty, my friend.















There’s one single key to enjoying eating out in Hawaii. Make sure your hotel has a kitchen and a BBQ!  Honestly, food is so expensive in Hawaii you can’t afford to eat out three meals a day every day for a week. We recently stayed at the Marriott Beach Club in Lihue… complete with full kitchen and community BBQs where the men hang out, smoke cigars, drink beer and discuss meat.  And now that you’ve saved some money by eating “in” you can really splurge when you eat out. And here are my recommendations starting from the north side of the island and working clockwise around it until we end up at Poipu.

Hanalei is a cute little town on the north shore. It feels like Hawaii 30 years ago. And smack dab in the middle of it is Tropical Taco.


 It’s a taco truck turned brick and mortar restaurant. Darrin and I had the fish tacos.


But the kids were the real winners. They each had not one but two orders of the ground beef burritos. Eat out on the porch, but watch for little Tweedy. He will snatch a bite if you’re not paying constant attention.


On the east shore is a little town call Kapa’a. We were told by our friend, Lori, as well as everyone else while on the island to eat at Bull Shed’s. There’s just a tiny sign off the main road so you have to look for it. We caught it at the last minute, drove down the long driveway… to this sign on the door.


Super bummed, but a good reason to return to Kauai someday.

In Lihue, there’s the famous Duke’s. Duke was a stud. Not only because he was an Olympic swimmer and is the father of modern day surfing… but because the dude made a helluva pie!



Hula pie was the perfect ending to our fabulous meal. And did you know Duke’s is owned by the same company that owns Sunnyside up at Lake Tahoe. I mention this because guess what’s on the Sunnyside menu? Hula Pie!!!






Also in Lihue, in fact right next door to Duke’s, is Portofino. We had mixed reviews about this legit Italian restaurant. The owner, the harpist and the waiter are all from Italy. The porch overlooks the ocean. And one night a week it turns into a disco for 21 and ups. The only nightlife in Lihue. Maybe even all of Kauai. Darrin and I both ordered the house specialty lasagna. It tasted as good as it looks.










Poipu is the main town on the south shore. And as you come into it, there’s a food truck that’s worth a stop. The Kauai Food Truck has great fish tacos and you pluck your own bottles of water from an Igloo cooler by the front tire.




There’s a pleasant grassy picnic area. We actually hung out here for a bit. I loved all the colors in this little corner of Poipu. Bonus suggestion! In the Poipu Shopping Village is Puka Dogs as seen on Food Network. Totally worth it and the kids will love it!



I’ve saved the best for last! Beach House in Poipu has an amazing location nestled into the best snorkeling cove on the island. That means you can send the kids snorkeling while you enjoy a coconut martini. The glass rim is an appetizer!


You can hear the waves while dining in any of their oceanfront booths. And when chef Marshall Blanchard plates his food he takes as much care with his presentation as he does the quality of the food. I got the grilled Hawaiian catch with coconut black Thai rice, green papaya salad and coconut red curry sauce.  











Darrin got something fabulous too…. but ate it before I could snap a photo!   And I was so impressed with the vanilla bean brown butter vinaigrette I called Marshall and asked for the recipe. Luckily he’s one of those cool chefs who doesn’t mind sharing his secrets. So here you go! Compliments of Chef Blanchard:

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Vinaigrette:  6 oz. Heinz gourmet malt vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons Dijon, 1 1/2 vanilla beans split lengthwise, 1 pound butter (yes that says 1 POUND!).  Melt the butter in a pan until it browns.  Set aside to cool.  Mix all other ingredients together and allow vanilla beans to soak for a while.  When they are soft, scrape the seeds back into the mixture and discard the stalks.  Finally, slowly whisk the butter into the mixture.  Marshall says he thins the vinaigrette with 1/2 cup water.  I’m going full throttle, no water for me!

And maybe that’s why my next post is titled DETOX!  The scale was quite an eye opener upon our return to reality…. but it was so worth it!














For spring break, we splurged and took the kids to Kauai, Hawaii. I was nervous. All I’ve ever heard about the garden island is how quiet it is and slow and relaxing. Quiet, Slow and Relaxing are not adjectives that describe my children! So what in the world were we going to do in such a place? Scream, Run and Be Adventurous of course. Because those are words that nail the personalities of Eva and Domi. And to be honest, Kauai has a false reputation. We LOVED IT! I’ve never been to Costa Rica, but Kauai is how I picture that country. Zip lining, surfing, hiking, boating exercusions… you name it… and we did it. Well, except for the boating. We simply ran out of time! Here’s my list of must do’s with Kids in Kauai!




Marriott Beach Club in Lihue: We stayed here because we got a great deal on the room. So I didn’t really look around. But this is a great spot for kids! For someone who is terrified of sharks (have I told you my parents took me to see Jaws at age 3 IN THE MOVIE THEATRE!) the ocean here is manageable. The resort sits on a cove. And the cove has a pier at the end of it, making the opening of the cove much smaller. Here’s my thinking. Sharks would never come into such a small opening to swim in a cove they know has only one exit. Right? I had to constantly remind myself of this while Domi and I took surf lessons. The pool is huge. Circular in shape with 5 hot tubs right  inside the pool. No slides (except in the baby pool) or any of the fancy stuff pools have now a days but the kids didn’t mind at all. There are several great restaurants at the resort including the world famous Duke’s (which btw is owned by the same company that owns Sunnyside at Lake Tahoe. And yes Sunnyside has hula pie… Same as Duke’s!)



Tubing the irrigation ditches:  This did not sound that great to me when we signed up. Then again Kauai didn’t sound that fun to me either! This trip has you floating on an innertube through an 1800′s sugar cane plantation. You ride the alow current of the actual irriation ditches that fed 17,000 acres of crops. What I didn’t realize is there are tunnels. 5 of them. They are so totally pitch black you have to wear a head lamp. The longest is half a mile! In one of them, the guide stopped us, told us to turn our headlamps off while he told the history of the ditches. I literally had to count slowly in my head to stop me from screaming “SPIDER!!!” which is what I’m sure was about to land on my head. Apparently I don’t care much for small spaces in pitch black. Weird I highly recommend this activity! Like child birth, you only remember the good parts.



  Hiking: For a GREAT hike, seriously one of my top 10 of all time, drive up the east coast of the island literally until the road ends. Ke’e beach is there. It’s also the trailhead for the Kalalu trail. It’s a cool, rocky, mossy, jungly trail that takes you to a lookout of the Napali coast.



You can’t get to these amazing beaches by car. You can hike this trail and look down on them, or boat to them.  That  means they are prestine, empty beaches you only see on Survivor. And make sure you come prepared… Unlike me. I thought it was a beach day. This is no trail for flip flops!


There are also really cool caves right near the trailhead so make sure you want into them. Scary, but worth it!


Snorkeling: In the town of Poipu, there’s an amazing restaurant called Beach House. Not only should you go there for their incredible cocktails, food and vanilla bean viniagrette, you should also get there a few hours early and bring your snorkel gear. The beach to the right of the restaurant (if you’re back is to the Beach House and you’re looking out at the ocean) is GREAT for snorkeling! In fact, the local guys from the tubing trip even said it’s the best spot in the island. And yes, turtles like this spot too! And try this. While snorkeling, grab some sand and throw it in the water in front of you. The fish think it’s food and they come swarming! (If you have really young children, I recommend going to Lydgate State Beach Park on the east side of the island. There’s a snorkeling area there that’s completely surrounded by a sea wall. Super safe for babies)

A week on Kauai wasn’t enough! 10 days would be better if you can swing it.  Tomorrow I’ll write about the food on Kauai.  Amazing!  And then later this week will be a post called DETOX!!!!  I’m sure you can figure out why!  Aloha!














kids in Bellagio

The kids in Italy

HUGE milestone in the Damonte family this summer.  We let our 7and 8 year olds fly to Europe by themselves!  Now before you think I’m a Mommy Dearest mom (do people even know that reference anymore??), know this.  I was actually on the plane.  But I didn’t fly with them!  And it was glorious!!  Let me explain.  A travel agent booked our flight from Dallas to Italy putting two of us in the exit row.  We had originally planned to board the plane and divide and conquer.  I would sit with Eva, Darrin would take Domi.  But since kids can’t sit in the exit isle…a family milestone was born!  The kids sat 10 rows in front of us.  They played their video games, they watched a movie, they ate meals together… even slept… and NOT ONE PEEP!  Turns out our kids need an audience of at least one parent in order to fight.  They loved it.  We cherished the 9 hours of uninterrupted quiet.  And when we arrived in Europe, I actually missed the little buggers.  I was dying to hear how their trip went.  I WANTED to be with them!  So thanks to a booking error by our travel agent, I will never fly with my children again… even though I will always be on the plane.