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2014: Bring It On

Jennifer Ronda

Happy "News" Year from The Ronda Reporter!

Nope, this isn't the usual sentimental, emotional, thought-provoking New Year's blog posting where I share my hopes, dreams, resolutions and promises for the year to come.

In fact, this New Year's blog doesn't even reflect back on the triumphs and missteps of 2013 (though, if I did have one thing to admit as my failure for the past year it would be spending a whole week in New York City and NOT getting any cronuts!)

Truth be told, this "News" Year posting is about -- and was inspired by-- my newspaper nail design! And, I thought my newspaper nail design went well with my New Year's champagne. 

Why "News" Year? Cause this is the Ronda Reporter. Our family a newspaper. News...New Year... Okay, maybe I've had one too many glasses of celebratory champagne. 

But there you have it. How's that for a shallow and completely unsentimental blog to kick off 2014?!?

But in all seriousness, whatever your goals, resolutions, and aspirations for the coming year, I wish you much luck and success.

All of us here at The Ronda Reporter wish you and yours all the best in 2014!  Happy New Year! 

My Thanksgiving Nightmare

Jennifer Ronda

This is my recollection of my Thanksgiving nightmare. Here's how it all went down:


My father-in-law arrives to pick up me and my husband in his "vintage" sky-blue Buick Regal. We crawl into the back seat, then head off for my parents' house where the big Thanksgiving feast will be held. With this huge family gathering before us, my nerves are already piqued. Having my father-in-law drive us to the event does not help one bit in calming my nerves.

First off, this is an old, unreliable car. The kind that stays covered in the garage and is only used on "special occasions" (my father-in-law believes wholeheartedly this car will only increase in value and become a classic). I'm not even certain we'll make it to my parents' house.

Second, my father-in-law never, EVER drives. Any other day of the year, he is escorted around town by his own personal chauffer. I can't even tell you the last time he actually drove a car.

In an attempt to distract myself and keep calm, I strike up a conversation with my father-in-law.

"Hey, you know what I just realized?" I ask. "You've never met my brother. Could you please introduce yourself to him today?" In response to my comment, he turns around to face me, and gives me that big smile of his, where his grin stretches from ear to ear, exposing all his pearly-white teeth. It's the smile that everyone who knows him recognizes. Okay, I'll take that as I yes.

Yep, total mayhem is unleashed. We arrive and there's like a long receiving line of family members to greet us as we walk through the door. (Please let me remember everyone's name.) Food smells meet our noses (should I be nervous that I don't smell turkey yet?). High-pitched shrills of little nieces, nephews, cousins and I'm pretty sure neighborhood kids pierce our ears. I say hi to aunts, uncles, distant relatives, and some folks who I don't even recognize and I'm quite sure are of no relation to us. 

My mom introduces me to the young lady currently renting the downstairs suite of their house. Meeting her in person only solidifies my earlier impressions I had of her. And I don't like her. Not one bit. Getting bad vibes from this one, alright. I'm convinced more than ever that she's only taking advantage of my parent's generosity and is going to rob them for all their worth. 

And this young lady does nothing to help win me over as she takes me on a guided tour of the private suite where she's residing, and points out all the expensive remodeling, newly appointed appliances, and paint projects my parents are funding at her request. Note to self: Must talk to parents about my skepticism of this so-called renter and her intentions. And also need to ensure mom and pop are saving up properly for their retirement.

I head for one of the staircases leading back upstairs, but stop when I hear clanging sounds coming from the garage. I never liked this part of the house and it gives me the creeps. Our garage was built over an old burial ground of some sort. It may or may not be haunted. 

I slowly open the door leading to the garage and meekly call out (so as to not upset any spirits, just in case, you never know), "Anyone in here?" 

"Hello!" replies a man who's laying on the ground, working on some pipes, and appears to be very pale, very white, and covered in what I only hope and pray is dust and plaster, lest he be an apparition or some incorporeal being. "I'm the handyman!" he yells out, before I can let out a scream.

Of course you are, I say to myself. On Thanksgiving Day. Why, oh, why, would my parents have a handyman over on Thanksgiving?!? Things are crazy enough here today, why would they introduce a handyman to the mix? I leave the handyman to work in peace. He's already charging double I'm sure for working on a holiday, so let's not delay him. Again, reminder to talk to my parents about the importance of retirement savings and OH, MY, WORD...

WHY DO I NOT HAVE A GLASS OF WINE IN MY HAND??? This is very unlike me. I've already been here almost AN HOUR, and I still have yet to pour myself a glass of wine.

It also occurs to me that I've blurted this statement out loud, right in front of two aunts, both of whom give me a nasty glare and I'm quite certain begin planning how they can do an intervention before the evening is over. I quickly walk away in search of the wine bar.

Okay, much better now. Big glass of red wine in hand. 

I walk up the semi-circular staircase, past all the kiddies throwing stuffed animals and bouncy-balls over the side of the railings (the house has a big, grand entrance room where the staircase and second landing is open and looks down upon the floor below), when I overhear one of the kids say something about eating FROZEN STEAK today?? Ha-ha-ha! I laugh to myself. Silly kid, it's Turkey Day! Surely, this is not a relative from my side of the family.

Yep, it's that one day of the year when we all sit around and carve the Big Bird. All year long, I patiently wait for this one November day when I feast upon a large gallinaceous bird: Meleagris gallopavo. Preferably one that's been soaking in a homemade brine for at least 6-8 hours prior to roasting. Also, strongly preferable that it's free-range, grass-fed, and has not been bloated with hormones or water.

But that's not what's important here, it's that we're all gathered together, the whole family, thankful for all we.....WAIT!!! Hold ON!!! WTF?! Why is there no aroma of turkey emanating from the kitchen???? (All these preceding thoughts I say to myself; there are little kids standing around me, after all!). 

My mom and mom-in-law are in the kitchen, laughing and talking and stirring bowls of something. My eyes do a quick scan of the counter top, and UGHHHHH! NOOOOOO!!!

There it is. That pale, pink styrofoam packaging that no decent, fresh, sustainably farm-raised meat should ever come in. Cellophane still in tact and tightly wound around the steak. And yep, the steak's frozen solid, with bits of ice crystals clinging to the inside of the cellophane. And no turkey bird in sight. I take a sip of my wine.

And then I see the mixed veggie medley cans. The ones where the carrots are cut into perfectly shaped cubes, the peas are on the edge of being neon green, and the sodium is off the charts. I turn around and make for the exit so as to avoid saying something I'd later regret, when the moms ask me over to look at something. I take another sip of my wine.

What I see: something resembling a baked potato shell, filled with some form of filling that's one-part dark liquid and one-part oily substance. I'm afraid to ask, and I don't have to: They inform me they whipped up my recipe for chocolate lava cakes for dessert. I take a very large sip of my wine. 

Trust me. This is not what my chocolate lava cakes are supposed to look like. But at this point, this is about the last thing wrong with this entire picture.

I'm out on the staircase balcony, looking down at all the stuffed toys on the ground below, when I see something out of the corner of my eye. There, down there by the garage door. Just perfect, stress-level off the charts and now I'm about to experience my first run-in with a dead person who's been buried under our garage floor.

Then I hear it. A faint, ghostly whisper over my shoulder, "Looks like you need more wine."

Of all things I could possibly imagine an ethereal being would say, this was not one of them. Yet, as I look down at my glass, they are completely and absolutely right! The bottom of my wine glass is indeed visible! 

Just to make sure I haven't totally lost it, I yell out, "Did anyone else just hear the ghost?! What did you hear it say?"

One of my relatives responds, "It said, "Looks like you're all having a good time.""

Perhaps to a spirit that ceased to exist who knows how long ago, all this might look like a good time. For me, I decide to go with my interpretation of the spirit's astute observation and head directly for the wine bar.



As the title indicates, this truly was a nightmare/dream I recently had, and does not reflect any actual Thanksgiving event.  The people, places, events, ghosts, etc presented here are fabrications of my unconscious imagination and do not represent anything based in reality. 

Oh, and my father-in-law that I reference in the beginning paragraphs, the one who has a big grin, a chauffer and doesn't ever drive himself?? As what always seems to inexplicably happen in dreams, my father-in-law was President Obama. So you see, I had to edit out some parts, otherwise you would have know from the get-go something was amiss. 

While I have wonderful memories and have spent amazing Thanksgivings with close family, relatives, good friends and neighbors, I'm very much looking forward to a quiet, cozy holiday this year with just my husband, dog, and maybe a stray friend or two. And some wine. 

Ready or Not, Here We Go!

Jennifer Ronda

Since this was most likely the last "training" hike before our trek up Mt. Whitney, we wanted a hike that would give us one final challenge. And I think this one did it!


We headed to Mt. Tamalpais State Park, and the first part of the day was spent on Temelpa Trail, which was less like a trail and more like a very dried-up narrow creek bed. This trail had close to a 2,000 foot elevation gain and was a fairly direct route right up to the east peak and summit of Mt. Tam. Phew, that got us sweating! 

We had a bird's eye view from the summit: we could see boats in the bay that were lining up for one of the America's Cup races, the tip of the Golden Gate Bridge, Mill Valley, across the bay to Mt. Diablo, and we even had a clear view of the Farrallon Islands! So we know the visibility on this day was at least 25 miles!On the Mt. Tamalpais Summit, with the Bay Area and Pacific Ocean in the background

We then headed for the north side of Mt. Tam, taking the...wait for it... Northside Trail. This relatively flat and shady trail was a nice break after coming up the Temelpa Trail.  

Next, we branched off Northside Trail to take Colier Spring Trail. And basically climbed up what was equivalent to a 50-story building! While short in distance, this trail took us up from about 1,800 feet to 2,300 feet. And no, there was no elevator to take us to the top.

Finally, Miller Trail to Hogback Fire Road which were mostly downhill. Hey, we need practice hiking downhill, too! 

Total mileage: about 9 miles.

If we're not ready for Mt. Whitney at this point, I don't think we ever will be!

GoPro on Mt. Tamalpais

Jennifer Ronda

Our GoPro camera goes with us again on another hike.

This hike, from August 18, 2013, covered several different trails in Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods State Parks.

Some of the trails covered during this outing: Dipsea, TCC, Troop 80, Lost and Sun Trails.

Highlights included Matt hitting his head on a tree, stumbling upon the Alice Eastwood Campground with a meditation seminar in full-swing (shhh! quiet voices only), and hiking past the German Tourist Club (which brought back memories of a past Octoberfest celebration we spent there with friends). Total hike: about 11 miles.

(GoPro images shot every 5 seconds.)

Five Lakes Hike, Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe

Jennifer Ronda

This is a great half-day hike to take if you're ever in the Lake Tahoe area. It's about 5 miles round-trip, dog-friendly, and you get beautiful views of the Alpine Meadows valley and ski resort and the Granite Wilderness area, and you even hike next to some (not in use) ski-lift towers. 

Bear (our dog) and I had fun exploring the area to see if we could find all 5 lakes; we found 4. And yes, Bear had to swim in all of them.

It's a pretty mellow hike, with about 900 ft. elevation gain.  

Follow Bear as he leads the way on this hike. 
(Hike from August 13, 2013. GoPro images shot at 10 second intervals.)

Hiking to Marlette Lake

Jennifer Ronda

We filmed this hike using our new GoPro camera. The hike was about 10 miles with 1,200 foot elevation gain and took us about 3.5 hours to complete. This was our first hike up to Marlette Lake -- what a beautiful, secluded alpine lake! The trail started at Lake Tahoe level (6,224 feet) and was a moderate uphill trek to Marlette Lake. Part of this hike paralleled the famous Flume Trail. Bear (our canine companion) especially liked the part of the hike where he got to splash around and cool off in the lake. 
Follow Bear as he leads you on the hike up to Marlette Lake!


(Hike from July 27, 2013. Shots from GoPro taken every 30 seconds.)

The Mount Whitney Challenge

Jennifer Ronda

Recently, I overheard someone talking about their plans to attempt to summit Mount Whitney in one day. My first thought was, "Where is Mount Whitney? I've never heard of it before. I need to Google that." (Okay, so that was actually three thoughts.)

Mount Whitney. Photo credit: Geographer, Wikimedia CommonsThen when I heard this person say it's the highest summit in the lower, contiguous 48-states, my next thought was, "I want to do that someday!"

A few years ago, Matt and I successfully summited Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in one day, so hiking Mt. Whitney sounded like an adventure we should try someday; the next big challenge; something to add to my ever-growing bucket list. (Which now stands at over 4 pages long, and I'm starting to think I may not be setting myself up for success in completing all the items.)

But it wasn't until a recent visit with some friends that the generic "someday" would turn into a very specific date in late September.

As it turns out, our friends are planning to hike Mt. Whitney this fall. Not only were they able to obtain a much sought-after day-use permit for themselves (a permit is required to hike on Mt. Whitney), but they had extra permits and invited us to join them on this demanding and extreme one-day hike! (I'm sure to some that doesn't sound like an enticing invitation. Our friends obviously know their audience quite well.)A view of some switchbacks on the trail. Photo credit: Cullen328, Wikimedia Commons

This was opportunity knocking. A chance to spend time with great friends and create unforgettable memories. An epic hike with my husband on new terrain. A possibility of checking off an item from the bucket list. I could feel that obscure and latent competitive gene of mine floating to the surface.

So then, why did I suddenly have a huge pit in the bottom of my stomach, feel apprehensive, and hesitate in immediately accepting their invitation? Oh, that's right: fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of not making it to the summit. Fear of getting altitude sickness. Fear of having to give up and turn around. Fear of not succeeding.

After mulling it over for several days, I realized fear is a pretty stupid reason not to even give it a try. How unfortunate (and dare I say, cowardly?) it would be to completely pass on this opportunity just because I'm afraid I may not complete the ascent. 

So, challenge accepted! We'll attempt to summit the 14,505 foot tall mountain in a single day via the Mount Whitney Trail

And even if failure becomes inevitable, I know it will still be an amazing day with incredible scenery, and it will be time well-spent with my husband and wonderful friends. I'll just have to submerge that competitive gene and save it for another challege.

Facts about the hike

  • Mount Whitney elevation: 14,505 feet
  • Total distance: 22 miles round-trip
  • Trail begins at Whitney Portal, elevation 8,360 feet
  • Elevation gain: over 6,100 feet
  • Timing: Requires 12 - 18 hours of strenuous hiking

Plaque at summit of Mount Whitney. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Spring It On

Jennifer Ronda

Spring has sprung. And is there any place I’d rather be than Lake Tahoe to witness the metamorphosis from the winter season to the sublime summer season? For those who don’t know me very well, the answer is, “No!”

I love being at Lake Tahoe at this time of year (okay, is there really ever a time of year when I don't love being here?!).  Here are just a few of the tell-tale signs that winter is out, spring is on, and the region is gearing up for the summer months ahead:


The bright red tips of Snow Flowers can just barely be seen emerging from the fallen pine needles and forest floor. They start to appear right after the snowmelt, and are sometimes seen in unsuspecting places.


Vacancy signs everywhere. Empty hiking trails. A deserted downtown. A feeling of having this area to oneself, knowing that soon the summer crowds will be here.

Whether it's solitary daffodils popping up in random spots, or a neighbor's densely planted flower bed, these cheery flowers seem to express gratitude that the winter months are over and it's now their time to come out of hiding and shine.

Nature starts revealing vibrant colors in the landscape, but they’re often contrasted with the remnants of snow, a pale sky, and brown and budless foliage.


Silent and mostly frozen throughout the winter, the creek at the back of our property has once again resumed its constant burbling and babbling.

Today's Forecast: Liquid Sunshine

Jennifer Ronda

Raindrops keep falling on my head...It's raining cats and dogs!...Raindrops on roses...Purple rain, purple rain...Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory...Red rain is coming down, red rain....Rain, rain, go away...In the cold November rain...

When you think about it, there are a lot of sayings and songs that talk about rain. Which to me is a bit odd since most people seem to despise the rainy weather, don't like to talk about it, and want it to stop and go away. But not me. I like the rain. I welcome it. Especially when I think about how the rain often times translates to snow in the mountains! To me, the rain is Mother Nature's way of giving the earth a good cleansing. An opportunity to don my rain boots and wash away all the dust on them. A rinse-cycle for the sidewalks. Liquid therapy for all the plants and flowers that greet me on my walks. So for me, I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again!


Supperbowl Sunday XLVII

Jennifer Ronda

Since our hometown team is playing in today's SuperBowl, we decided a standard menu of chicken wings, potato chips and store-bought dips just wouldn't do. Instead, we opted to test out a few new appetizer recipes to mark this occasion and what will hopefully be a win in our Quest for Six (don't worry Steelers, you're still #1 in our hearts!). The recipes come courtesty of Caroline Fey and Meghan Ellis at the City Kitchen, which never disappoints with their menus and culinary creations. 

Our "Supperbowl" menu covers as much of the culinary field as we're hoping Colin Kaepernick will do in today's game: one healthy hummus spread, a spicy tapas dish, and a hearty sausage dip.

Go 49er's! 

Little Spanish Meatballs with Shaved Manchego Cheese & Grilled Bread: The spiced aroma coming off this dish is incredible -- cinnamon, nutmeg, smoked paprika and cumin.

Meyer Lemon Hummus with Carmelized Shallots and Homemade Pita Chips: The shallots and lemon juice add a special twist to this dip.


Warm Sausage Dip with Fire Roasted Tomatoes & Mascarpone Cheese: Sausage and cheese...'nuff said.


 And the full spread:



Big Sur: Yes, Sir!

Jennifer Ronda

Every camping trip we've ever taken always offers its own unique experiences, lasting memories, and fun times. Even though it had been over a year since our last outdoor adventure, our camping trip a couple of weeks ago was no different. The exception being that this time we decided to head down south to Big Sur, California. 

It had been years since we last made a trek to this part of the state, and we had forgotten how beautiful this area is. It truly is a special and magnificent place where the mountains of the west and rugged coastline abruptly meet the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Rocky outcroppings, pristine beaches, sheer drop-offs, enormous bluffs -- there are breathtaking views and blue waters everywhere you look. And let's not forget all the marine mammal sightings!

Kirk Creek Campground, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur

Our destination: Kirk Creek Campground. Listed by Sunset Magazine as the 6th best campground in California,Campsite #22 we were not disappointed! We pitched our tent on the coveted Site #22 which offered amazing views of the ocean to the west, the rugged coastline to our north, and the steep Los Padres Mountains to our east. Our campsite was a stone's throw from the edge of a bluff dropping off 100 feet to the ocean...literally. Seriously.

At dusk, we had a front-seat view to the setting sun and its changing colors; at Sunset over the Pacific Oceannight, we watched the display of stars on a completely black canvas, then drifted off with the waves of the Pacific Ocean lulling us to sleep. The morning view wasn't bad either: we spotted sea lions basking on a nearby rock outcropping and saw a school of dolphins swim by as we sipped our coffee.



Other Highlights from Big Sur

We definitely spent a lot of time just relaxing together and taking in all the views our amazing campsite had to offer. We also set out on a few adventures so we could explore some of the surrounding areas: 

1. A long hike through the Ventana Wilderness and Los Padres National Forest. The constant incline of the trail was hard work, but we were rewarded with incredible bird's eye views of the rugged coastline, the ocean, the adjoining mountains, and even our campsite off in the distance!

2. Beach time at Sand Dollar Beach. Our dog, Bear, especially enjoyed this outing as he got to splash around in the ocean and play an endless game of fetch!

3. A visit to McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Tucked away in a picturesque lagoon, the waterfall drops 80 feet from a cliff to the beach, and is the only coastal waterfall in California.

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Yes, sir -- Big Sur is a very special place, and all the better when you can pitch your tent right on the water's edge!

Dog Days of Summer


Woof! It's me, Bear the dog. It seems humans have been growling a lot lately about how hot it is. Record-breaking weather. Triple-digit temperatures. No air conditioning because of major power outages. Sweltering heat and high humidity.

You probably didn't think we dogs picked up on stuff like this. With our exceptional hearing, our dog-ears hear everything! So, I'd like to offer up a little dog food for thought to help put this summer heat in dog perspective. Oh, and woof! I'll also share with you some of my tips for staying cool in the Dog Days of Summer. 

Throw Me a Bone (Or, Give Me a Break in Dog Speak) 

When it's sizzling hot, muggy, and humid outside, what do you wear? Maybe you don a lightweight outfit made out of a cool, breathable fabric like cotton, seersucker polyester (whatever that is), or linen. Perhaps you pull on a bathing suit. Or, maybe you put on a light colored tank-top and shorts. What do we canine companions wear in this oppressive heat (grrrr, or any day for that matter!)? A FUR coat! And for me, about TWO layers of fur!! (Thanks to my partial Newfoundland heritage, I have a thick double-coat.) And bark! Did I mention my fur is BLACK?! Try running around a whole day in 85 degree weather wearing a black, double-layered, full-bodied fur coat and see how long it takes before you start to pant. Speaking of panting...

For me, panting is how I cool off in hot weather. Since I can't sweat or take off my fur coat (see above), sticking my tongue out and panting allows me to circulate air through my body to help cool me down. Next time you humans complain about being too hot and how you need to cool yourself off, try doing what we doggies do: stick your tongue way out of your mouth and try panting for several minutes. Go ahead...try it. It starts to get uncomfortable after awhile, doesn't it? Do you feel a little silly with your tongue dangling out of your mouth? Now imagine a tongue twice as long as yours! 

Finally, let's talk paws, er uh, feet. Bark! We have FOUR of them, how many do YOU have?? Sometimes this comes in handy, but during the hot season, it can be doubly problematic. For example, did you walk over five miles yesterday in your bare feet on scorching hot rocks and black tarmac that had been baking in the sun all day? And I bet you probably wear your flip-flops to the beach to avoid stepping on blistering hot sand. I'm a lucky dog 'cause my parents do a good job of steering me towards shady sidewalks and cool dirt to walk on which helps my dogs from barking too much (they've tried the doggie-bootie thing on my paws, but I kept losing them!). They also check my paws often to make sure they're in good working order with no cuts, blisters, or other owies. 

Just sayin', from my doggie perspective, it could be a lot worse for you humans during all this sweltering summer heat.

Here are my tail-wagging tips for a dog-gone good summer: 

1. Water, water, water! And lots of it! For drinking, of course, but also the FUN kind of water you wadePlaying in Lake Tahoe is a "paw-fect" way to cool off! and splash into. My people always have water for me wherever we go (even to the park and on hikes), and they have a fun little travel doggie drinking bowl just for me (but grrrr, seriously, what's wrong with me sharing YOUR water glass with you?!) The lake, a pond, the river, a pool, the bay! These all help to cool me off. Then when I get out of the water, I like to help my humans cool off by shaking some of the water off on them. Ruff! Ruff! For some reason, which my canine brain doesn't get, they usually react to this with a growl and snarl of their own. 

2. Cool spots in the shade. You don't have to be picky. Any shady spot will do. Especially This shady spot has dirt, dust, and pine needles to help keep me cool.ones that have refreshingly cool dirt, or even moist, damp sand. That can really help cool off pups and people alike. But for me, my favorite cool spot in the shade? One that has fresh mushy, squishy mud, woof! It feels so chill and refreshing when it sticks all over my belly and coats all my fur on my underside. Even in the biggest park with all that fancy green grass, I can always manage to find the one, small spot of mud to lay down in. Which makes one bark the question, "Why isn't there more mud at the park?" Huh. 

See, and you wondered how beneficial advice would be coming from a dog! I hope this helps both you and your canine companion alike and makes your Dog Days of Summer more "Bear"-able. Arff! Arff!  

Baking Dog Biscuits for a Cause

Jennifer Ronda

This past weekend the annual Fillmore Jazz Street Festival was held in San Francisco, packed with arts and craft booths, food vendors, beer gardens, and lots of live music. The Pets Unlimited Shelter & Adoption Center also had a booth set up offering dog and cat treats, biscuits, and goodies to help raise funds for all the shelter animals. To help with the cause, Bear (ahem, Jen) baked up a batch of Bear's Homemade Dog Biscuits to donate to the shelter's bake sale. 

Bear's Homemade Dog Biscuits are pretty simple to make, and use ingredients both canines and humans alike can eat: Flour, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Bear says, "They're paw-lickin' good!!!"Organic Unsweetened Applesauce, Cheddar Cheese, Egg, and Homemade Chicken Stock.

Both Jen and Bear have done taste-tests on them; Jen likens the biscuits to bland crackers, and Bear says they're paw-lickin' good. 

Of course, it's the dog bone-shaped cookie cutter that makes all the difference! 

Biscuits, fresh out of the oven. Bear inspects to ensure they've been baked to paw-fection.

Once out of the oven and cooled off, the biscuits were packaged up and ready to go to the bake sale. A list of ingredients was included on the packaging to help out the finicky eaters.   

The Pets Unlimited Shelter & Adoption Center bake sale was a success! A little over $2000 was raised from the sale of all the baked goods! Both Bear and Jen like to think that Bear's Homemade Dog Biscuits were in high demand at the sale, and are tail-wagging and smiling (respectively) knowing that some of the money raised for the shelter was a result of their contribution. 

 The Pets Unlimited Shelter and Adoption Center bake sale booth, with the shelter in the background



Splish Splash on the American River South Fork

Jennifer Ronda

Barking Dog. Satan's Cesspool. Hospital Bar. Bouncing Rock. Ambulance Ride. These all sound like things you want to avoid in any given day. But for Matt and me, we conquered them all yesterday!!! These were just a few of the Class II and Class III rapids we encountered on our whitewater rafting adventure on the South Fork of the American River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

After collecting our helmet and lifejackets (safety first, last, and always!), and listening to the safety speech and "Rules of the River" from one of the Adventure Connection river guides, we boarded a bus and headed a few miles upriver. There were seven of us who loaded into the raft, and along with our guide, Brian, we set off for our day-long journey down the river.

The initial calm waters gave us the opportunity for some practice paddling. Matt and I were both a bit alarmed to hear the nervousness and despair in our guide's voice as he tried repeatedly to instruct us all on the perfect paddling technique and get us paddling in a perfect synchronized rhythm (hey, don't look at me and Matt...there were two kids under the age of 12 and a Lithuanian who barely spoke English on our raft!). But shortly, we worked out the kinks and were soon sailing through the waters like a well-oiled...raft. The first hour or so was fairly mellow, with only a couple Class II rapids and little paddling required on our parts. Our confidence in our guide, Brian, grew quickly during this time as we saw one raft get caught up on a rock (in what was supposed to be the easy part of the river!), fill up with water, and lose two of its rafters! 

We stopped at the American Connection campground for lunch, then headed out for the second -- and more intense-- part of our river rafting experience. During this part, we power-paddled through Class II and Class III rapids, gently paddled through calm waters, saw beautiful riverside scenery, rafted through gorges, and even saw some river otters! Oh, and got wet...and on some rapids, got very wet. And in Matt's case, got very drenched. He was seated in the front of the raft and blocked a lot of the water from spraying the rest of the rafters (especially me, who was seated directly behind him :-D). Despite the frigid water temperature (the guide estimated it was upper 50's, low 60's), the sprays of water, and yes, okay, sometimes downright drenching!!, felt refreshing given the hot, dry temperatures of the day. 

Despite our initial paddling inadequacy, our raft made it through the day without a serious snag on a rock, we lost no rafters, and did not capsize. The day ended at Folsom Lake, where all the rafts joined together and were transported across the lake via a jet ski.  We boarded the bus, headed back to the campground, changed into dry clothes, and couldn't stop talking about how much fun we'd had. We definitely plan to go whitewater rafting again, and are now ready to conquer Class III and Class IV rapids.

Out Horsing Around

Jennifer Ronda

Last week, I left the city life behind me (for several hours, anyways) and headed for the foothills of Mount Diablo for a 3+ horseback ride at Isabella Farms. It's amazing how within a one-hour drive one can completely leave the city, traffic, and freeways and find oneselve out in a rural area where two-lane roads, silence, wild turkeys, and horse farms are the norm.

Isabella Farms is a beautiful ranch, complete with a little over a dozen horses, two goats, chickens (yes, cage free!), two cats, and a young Doberman Pinscher pup named Daisy (whose job is to keep away the coyotes and bob cats; okay, as a 5 month old puppy, she has yet to grow into this role, but one day will). Once there, I headed out to the pasture to round up my trusty steed for the journey: Justice. And he was one high-spirited and magnificent horse who did justice on making me work hard on my horsemanship skills! As it turned out, I was the only one who showed up for the trail ride (how nice!). And I couldn't wait to head out on the ride with my guide, Lindsay.

The clip-clop, clip-clop of the horses' hooves on the ground, the snorting sounds coming from Justice, the swishing-sound of the horses' tails as they tried to chase away the quickly brought on a feeling of peace and tranquility. Of course, the landscape didn't hurt either. We took a trail through the foothills that first started out with a canopy of trees covering the wide path. With poison ivy and poison oak lining the path. Then, the trail significantly narrowed to a very tight line that led us through open, rolling, grassy areas dotted with low, stubby trees; this part made us feel as if we were riding through Frodo's homeland of The Shire (while dodging more poison ivy and poison oak).

But the truly breathtaking part of our journey was when we reached the ridge and had a bird's eye view of the valleys below us and Mt. Diablo in front of us. And it literally was a bird's eye view -- as I looked to my right I was level with a crow that was about 40 yards away just hovering and soaring in the wind. Speaking of wind, this was also the windiest part. And the coldest part. Sitting atop our horses, we could see the wind rippling across the tall grasses. It reminded us of big waves way out at sea moving through the ocean.

After some steep descents, more grasslands, and more poison ivy and poison oak, we were on our way back to the ranch. It was an amazing day with amazing views. And Justice was well served. And I don't know what surprised me more: waking up the next morning with no poison ivy (which I was certain I had) , or waking up with no sore bones (which I was certain I would)!

Me and Justice

Weekend Warriors: Fantabulous Weather in San Francisco

Jennifer Ronda

It doesn't happen too often, so when the thermometer in San Francisco hits 70+, it's time to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather! 

What better way to spend the day than with friends at Zeitgeist? With their incredible beer selection (I mean Zeitgeist, not my friends), like Stone Pale Ale and the amazing outdoor "beir garten", this is a great way to soak up the sun and SF atmosphere. We were surrounded by bikers, hipsters, and drunken Brazilians, but everyone had me pegged as the Pac Heights' Urbanite when I whipped out my iPhone to do my obligatory FaceBook posting. Apparently, they forbid folks from taking pictures here; we were reprimanded by one of the bar keeps when I asked a fellow "beir-gartener" to take our group photo. I guess like Vegas, what happens at Zeitgeist, stays at Zeitgeist!


Blog Entry #1: This is a Test

Jennifer Ronda

Wait. What? I have a Blog Page? I don't know what to do with this. Do I write about some innocuous event that happened to me today? Or should I instead share some of my deepest, most moving thoughts that occured to me today? This is stressing me out just trying to determine what I should write about....

Okay, let's blockquote this so it looks really important: Hello. And welcome to my first blog posting.   

Wow. Does this mean I'm now a blogger?