Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Refresher

We've done it again! We've successfully figured out how to make a favorite coffee shop drink at home...for sooo much less. A few years ago I started making my own flavored syrup so I could make my own vanilla lattes and caramel macchiatos at home. They're so good and I know I've saved lots of money by making them myself...or, at least had a lot more of them than I would have been able to afford. This summer, my daughter and I discovered a refreshing tea lemonade...

It seemed like an easy thing to make...and it is! We used one can of Trader Joe's frozen lemonade and mixed it with Trader Joe's green tea (five teabags) that we'd made up and allowed to cool (the same amount of water directed on the can), mixed it up and poured it over ice. Yummmm! Tasty and refreshing! :-)

An added has about 40mg of caffeine per cup and it turns out that green tea has about 32mg. That makes it a great alternative to coffee for a shot of caffeine. But, if you're looking to drink less caffeine, consider using de-caffeinated green tea.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mono Lake

Last week we visited the unique and beautiful Mono Lake, on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This lake has an interesting history. It is one of the oldest lakes in North America and at one time was extremely large. However, in 1941 the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) began diverting massive amounts of water from the nearby rivers and streams that feed the lake to Los Angeles, about 350 miles south. This significantly changed the lake, dropping it 45 vertical feet and causing it to lose half of it's volume by 1991. This doubled the salinity level of the lake, making it three times saltier than the ocean and caused it to have an extremely high ph level. In 1994 the DWP agreed to allow water to flow into it and raise the lake to a "healthy" level. We've been visiting this lake for decades and watching it's progress. It has risen quite a bit since we first visited and only has about nine feet to go.

Mono Lake is a beautiful and unique place to visit. With a back drop of the Sierra Mountain Range (near Yosemite) to the west and desert with volcanic mountains on the other three sides, it's a sight to behold. Here is a a glimpse of it as I walked down a wood path toward the shore at "South Tufa" beach...

Mono isn't like any other lake we've ever seen. It is filled with springs that have a very high mineral content. As the water is released from the bottom of the lake, the minerals form Tufa. Tufa are hard, rock like formations. Because of the significant drop in lake/water level, these formations are visible around the shoreline. There are a lot less Tufa visible now than the last time we visited (that's good news) but there are still a lot to see. It ranges in height from ground level to 15 feet or more. In some places it's like walking on a different planet or something. Here are a few tufa towers...

Tufa varies in color and texture a bit but it's usually very rough and sharp. Here is a close-up of some of it...

Because of the high salt content and ph level, fish cannot live in this lake. However, it is very much alive with brine shrimp (like the "Sea Monkeys" a lot of people saw as kids). This is perfect for brine flies that feed on them. The flies cover a lot of the shoreline, making it black. All of the black in this picture is flies...

It seems like it would be really awful to be around but these flies aren't interested in people and you can walk right through them and they won't land on you. Instead, they fly up a few inches to a foot or so and make big black clouds and then quickly land again. It's kind of fun. The Gulls love the flies and their pupa. They can be seen running along the shoreline with their heads down, mouths open, scooping up flies. It's funny to watch.

Speaking of Gulls...80% (over 60,000) of California's Gulls migrate to Mono Lake each year to lay eggs and raise their young. That's a long way to fly from any beach in California! And, they have to fly over 14,000 foot mountains! What a great place for them though...they have several protected islands on the lake all to themselves...well...themselves and many other species of birds.

I'm thankful to the many people who worked tirelessly to make the importance of Mono Lake known and fight for it's "life", to bring water back to it before it was gone forever. Now it will be here for many more generations to visit, awe, and enjoy. Long live Mono Lake!

For more images and information about Mono Lake, you can visit

Come back soon to to see where we went next...the beauty was beyond words!

On the Road Again...

About a week ago, we loaded up our little "Home Sweet Home-Away-From-Home" camping trailer and we were off to camp near the tiny town of Lee Vining, in the Eastern Sierra Mountains, just east of Yosemite.

When we bought our little trailer years ago, it came decorated in un-matching colors, patterns, and it was just plain...uh...un-attractive. Over the years it has been re-decorated on a budget...a tiny budget...including clearance items from various stores, thrift shops and rummage sales. It may not be worthy of decorating awards but we enjoy it's bright, happy colors and fun little touches that make it a cozy little place to stay when we travel.

This is our living/dining room area. We love the wrap around dinette which gives the three of us plenty of room to stretch out and relax, read, knit, play games, etc. Complete with lots of fluffy pillows...some of which my daughter and I made up with various fabrics and trims. The large table works great for meals and has lots of space for playing games. We love our matching red, white, and blue dishes (they look like speckled enamelware but they're easy-care melamine), our colored (plastic) glasses...we each have our own color to keep track of our drinks, and our bandana look dishtowels. At night this area becomes a queen sized bed...

The shelf behind the table comes in handy for all sorts of fun and necessary items we bring...knitting, a small harp (above), books and magazines, an old marshmallow tin filled with cards and small games, etc.

Our kitchen is very small but with the table we have plenty of space to whip up some pretty fabulous meals. I love the happy wallpaper (found in a clearance Wal-Mart) and our tin Corona tray that comes in handy for carrying snacks outdoors. I recently started using an old percolator that my parents used when they tent camped decades ago. It makes great coffee!

I forgot to take pictures of the back half of our trailer. The kitchen has a nice sized refridgerator and freezer. And, there is a double size bed which is tucked, cozily, into a corner. The opposite corner has a tiny little bathroom with cute painted shelving to hold washclothes and many of our necessary lotions and potions, and theres a small tub/shower with a pretty red and white fabric shower curtain. There is a skylight/vent that keeps the small bathroom bright and airy.

I love our budget quilt...and so does Salsa! She gets a special treat when we camp of snuggling on the foot of our bed in the mornings.

We camped alongside Lee Vining Creek. The rushing water is so pretty and the sound of it is so nice to hear...especially at night when we snuggled in our little trailer, enjoying the cool night air. We even enjoyed a couple of rainy nights...I love the sound of the rain on the roof!

The skies were clear on the last night we were there and there were more stars than I've seen in many years. The Milkyway glowed like someone was shining a light into the sky. And, all those bright stars with the silouette of the tall pine trees was so beautiful!

We made several day trips that I'll be posting about over the next few days. So, please come back and vist to see where we went and the fabulous things we saw. :-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm Still Here....

...and...still knitting. I've just been super busy with life and I don't have any new projects to show right now. The tank top was going along great...or so I thought...but it was turning out wayyyyy too big. So, before I went any further, I ripped it out and started a smaller size. As I was nearing the finish line on attempt #2, I put a piece of yarn in place of the needles to try it on and it was also too big. Also, I didn't like the cowl front as much as I had hoped.....RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP! I like this ball of yarn though and I really want to make some kind of tank top with it. So, I'm still looking through patterns and trying to decide on one so I can get started again.

The stripey socks have been on hold...but will get finished. I started a scarf but it wasn't working out....RIIIP! I was using some bamboo yarn that I've tried to use on several other projects but it never seems to work out...I'm wondering if this ball of yarn is bad luck. It's back in the basket for now.

Last, but definitely not least...last night at the yarn shop I fell head over heals for the "Ruffled Rose Scarf" did some of my knit friends. The pattern is free from the yarn shop, which is always fun. Several of us shopped together for the yarns we needed so we could get started as soon as possible. I'm soooo excited about this project! It's like a bouguet of roses for your neck. Soooo cute! I have a small start on it and will post pics when I make more progress and have more time.

Back to all the busy-ness of this summer...and hopefully...more knitting time! :-D