2 Dads with Baggage http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com global adventures in parenting - with a gay twist Wed, 23 May 2018 17:41:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2DwB_favicon-75x75.jpg 2 Dads with Baggage http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com 32 32 Recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/recipe-for-strawberry-rhubarb-crisp/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/recipe-for-strawberry-rhubarb-crisp/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:41:49 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=5118

Maybe it's this time of year, when Spring has delivers fresh strawberries ripened on the vine in our California sun. Rhubarb also comes into season now and starts appearing at the local farmer's markets and grocery stores. Here's a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.

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Of all my mom’s favorite recipes, one I recall fondly from my childhood has always been her simple recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. Maybe it’s this time of year, when Spring has delivers fresh strawberries ripened on the vine in our California sun. Rhubarb also comes into season now and starts appearing at the local farmer’s markets and grocery stores.

Spring is rhubarb season
I’ve always loved rhubarb, ever since I was a little boy and we grew it in our garden.

We were lucky to grow up in a household where my mom was always cooking up something. She would taste a dish, run home and then test-kitchen the hell out of it until her own version was perfected. Her twists on many favorites have now been passed on to lucky me!

I’m happy to share with you her recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. I’ve updated it to use only organic fruits and natural ingredients.

Spring strawberry and rhubarb season
Chopping the strawberries and rhubarb into small pieces helps the flavors blend together in the baking process.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

  • 2 cups fresh ripe strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 2 cups rhubarb (about 4 stalks) diced
  • 1 tablespoon organic flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons organic cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar

Toss above ingredients in a bowl, coating the fruit completely. Spoon into 4 one-cup ramekins and set aside.

making strawberry rhubarb crisp
Mixing the strawberry and rhubarb pieces together with other ingredients.

In another bowl, place the following:

  • 1 1/2 cups organic flour
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 6 oz cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
mixing crumbly dough by hand
Mixing the dough by hand was my mom’s special touch, which creates a mixture perfect for crumbling.

Mix ingredients together using your hands, gently mashing the butter and the rest together until it becomes crumbly, not too doughy. Be careful not to over mix. Pour mixture into ramekins on top of fruit, filling to the rim.

baking strawberry and rhubarb crisp
Individual ramekins help serve up just the right amount of Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 15 minutes, until juice from fruit is bubbling through the crust.

Remove from over and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe

Boy, does that bring back memories. Thanks Mom – we miss you!

 

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Cutting the Cord on Cable: Buh Bye http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/cutting-the-cord-on-cable/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/cutting-the-cord-on-cable/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 14:42:14 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=5104

For a very long time we've been talking about cutting the cord on cable at our house. Our Cox Cable bill was totaling $297 per month ($3,564 a year!) for a bundle of services that included cable TV, HBO, land line phone and internet.

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For a very long time we’ve been talking about cutting the cord on cable at our house. Our Cox Cable bill was totaling $297 per month ($3,564 a year!) for a bundle of services that included cable TV, HBO, land line phone and internet. That’s a huge amount of money to shell out every month, and we knew we would benefit financially from cutting the cord on cable. And we did – our bill is now $65 per month.

We saved $2,784 a year by finding great alternatives – that’s a savings of $232 per month! Before you get too excited, know that you may still have to work with your local cable company as your Internet Service Provider. That is, until Google gets their cable laid anyway.

Apple TV 4 comes with SIRI
Apple TV comes with SIRI, and you can use voice commands to find a program you want to watch.

Still, we are really happy with where we ended up. We dropped our land line telephone service, since all four of us exclusively use our mobile phones anyway.

Cutting the Cord on Cable

Here’s how we did it:

  1. Apple TV 4K – The latest version of the Apple TV product has all the necessary HDR features for us to watch with the greatest picture clarity you we’ve ever seen. Plus the SIRI remote it comes with is so handy, and we can verbally ask it to find us a particular movie or show. LOVE. IT.
  2. Cable Modem – Buy a cable modem so you don’t have to rent it from your cable provider. We chose the Arris Surfboard with up to 10+ Gbps download speeds (that translates to really fast streaming).

    We purchased our own cable modem so we wouldn’t need to rent one from Cox.
  3. WIFI – Apple is discontinuing their AirPort product that previously delivered WIFI, which was just okay anyway. About a year ago, we switched to the EERO wifi router because it provides a consistently strong signal throughout our entire house. With 4-6 users at any one time, we hear wails of discontent if the wifi isn’t operating at top streaming functionality. EERO has consistently delivered.

    eero delivers wifi to every corner of our house
    The EERO system enables WIFI to reach every corner of our house equally – no dead zones!
  4. (Hint: Here’s a little test to see how fast your wifi really is. Type fast.com into your browser, and the screen that appears will show you the speed of information your ISP. Anything above 15 mbps is considered good. Our is 98 thanks to EERO).
  5. Content providers – We already had Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts, and hardly ever watched cable TV except for awards show, major breaking TV news and the Olympics. We also signed up for YouTube TV, which basically solves that problem.

    Apple TV provides high definition viewing
    Our Apple TV screen allows us a range of viewing choices, all in HDR.
  6. KODI – KODI TV is an open source entertainment hub, bringing you pretty much whatever you want to watch whenever you want to watch it.

NO CABLE AND SO HAPPY

Now we can all blissfully watch whatever we want! Well, Triton and I can – the girls have to earn their TV time with good attitudes, clean rooms and high grades. We’ll see how this goes…

 

 

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Early Screening of SOLO: A Star Wars Story http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/early-screening-of-solo-a-star-wars-story/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/early-screening-of-solo-a-star-wars-story/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 00:38:10 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=5091

Han Solo is one of those iconic heroes that has grown over the years to become bigger than life. The role Harrison Ford created is the stuff of legends (literally) and so this prequel of Solo's younger life is incredibly compelling.

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The Star Wars geek in me is jumping up and down, because my inner geek and I get to attend an early screening of SOLO: A Star Wars Story on Monday. I am totally stoked to preview this film early with Triton! This way, I can stew in my own Stars Wars juices as I prepare to give you a decent review as soon as I am allowed.

Han and Chewie strike up a friendship
Han Solo befriends his future co-pilot Chewbacca in the new SOLO: A Star Wars Story

Early Screening of SOLO

Han Solo is one of those iconic heroes that has grown over the years to become bigger than life. The role Harrison Ford created is the stuff of legends (literally) and so this prequel of Solo’s younger life is incredibly compelling. Come on, you’ve always wondered how he got so rakish and brave. Now you will find out!

I mean, check out this trailer for a glimpse of what’s to come in this film.

SOLO: A Star Wars Story

The movie will officially debut in theaters everywhere for Memorial Day Weekend, beginning May 25. I’m sure we will see it more than once, since every Star Wars movie ever made cannot be absorbed in one viewing. Too many Easter Eggs!

Check out these stills from SOLO: A Star Wars Story:

Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke in SOLO
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Emilia Clarke as Not Daenerys Targaryen

 

Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Donald Glover plays gambler Lando Calrissian in SOLO: A Star Wars Story

The film stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany. What a cast!

Stay tuned for my review after our early screening of SOLO: A Star Wars Story. Coming to a blog post near you. And in the meantime, visit to official SOLO: A Star Wars Story site for all the fun and games.

 

 

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Office Lifesaver: Panera Bread Now Delivers http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/office-lifesaver-panera-bread-now-delivers/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/office-lifesaver-panera-bread-now-delivers/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 23:16:37 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=4884

*This post is sponsored by Panera Bread, a place we like to go whether they sponsor us or not! If you work in an office, it’s likely that you’ve been caught off-guard when busy mornings end in a last minute scramble for lunch. As prepared as I like to be about where my next meal […]

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*This post is sponsored by Panera Bread, a place we like to go whether they sponsor us or not!

If you work in an office, it’s likely that you’ve been caught off-guard when busy mornings end in a last minute scramble for lunch. As prepared as I like to be about where my next meal is coming from (kind of obsessed with food), I’m thrilled to learn that Panera Bread – one of my lunch favorites – will now delivery right to my office. Delicious sandwiches, soups and salads freshly made without me having to fetch it? Yes please!

When things are really buzzing at work, the thought about what to eat for lunch doesn’t come up until my stomach tells me it’s too late. My friends and family will tell you, I’m not at my best when I am hungry -hangry is more like it. At these moments, I tend to rush out and get something to eat from a place close by, and that is not always the healthiest or best tasting choice. Fast is not always better, except when it comes to delivery. Panera Bread’s new delivery service has all that dialed in, which makes me – and everyone else around me – very happy.

order Panera Bakery delivery
Ordering online with Panera Bread was an easy way for me to arrange lunch delivery.

Super Easy to Order

Last Wednesday, I knew my day was going to be a doozy, so I went online to PaneraBread.com and placed my order in the morning before the crazy started. Knowing a couple of office mates would be in the trenches with me, I ordered for all three of us. The online menu was easy to click through, and the choices plentiful.

My only difficulty in placing the delivery order with Panera Bread was choosing between all the great options. I ended up ordering a Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT on Panera’s delicious homemade sourdough bread, a Caesar Salad With Chicken for my gluten-free colleague, and a nice combo of savory Summer Corn Chowder and a half Modern Greek Salad with kale, quinoa, olives and feta.

Set Your Delivery Time

Because of our crazy meeting schedule, we had a break between meetings for about 25 minutes in which to eat lunch. I needed our delivery from Panera Bread to arrive within a narrow window of time, allowing us to enjoy our lunch without rush. The last thing we wanted to do was stand over a desk, gulping down quick bites before rushing off to the next thing.

 

From there I opted in for Panera to text me when the delivery was on its way. I could track the progress as our delivery guy headed towards us with our lunch in hand.

Delivery tracking with Panera Bakery
With an easy text from Panera Bread, I was able to track my delivery order as it made it’s way to me.

Delivered with a Smile

Panera delivered perfectly on time (bonus points for arriving even a little early). A text let me know the delivery was arriving.

Panera Bakery text upon delivery
I received another text when the delivery was arriving, so I could go meet the driver in our office reception area.

Panera’s guy Garrett arrived with his trusty Panera Bread delivery bag, ready to leave us with delicious food all ready to eat. With a friendly smile and nod, he asked me to sign for the delivery and handed over the goods.

Everything in our delivery arrived perfectly. The soup was piping hot, salads were fresh and crispy, and the sandwich tasted as though it was just made. I know the nearest Panera Bread is not just right around the corner, so we were all impressed the food was delivered with such high quality and standards.

Panera Bakery delivers
Our delivery arrived quickly and easily from Panera Bread, hand delivered to us from our friendly driver.

Easiest Lunch Order Ever

Sometimes when we order lunch into the office, it’s a laborious process of going through a printed menu and deciding what you want while everyone else does the same. Then some unlucky cohort has to combine all the orders and call or click it in, hoping for the best. In these situations it always seems like someone doesn’t get what they wanted, or the mayo wasn’t left off, or any number of missteps.

With a trusted name like Panera Bread, I knew my online order would be processed just as I intended. And it was.

perfect delivery from Panera Bakery
Our food from Panera Bread arrived in perfect condition – hot soup, crisp salad and even a fresh baquette.

 

Quick. Reliable. Affordable. Delicious. Yep, I think we have a new lunch solution with Panera Bread Delivery.

 

 

 

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11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/11-best-gay-pride-parades-in-2018/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/11-best-gay-pride-parades-in-2018/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 15:44:13 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=5076

As proud San Diegans, we just had to make sure all the fun facts about San Diego Pride were included in this great Trivago story about 11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018. After all, San Diego Pride has been our hometown celebration together for more than 20 years.

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As proud San Diegans, we just had to make sure all the fun facts about San Diego Pride were included in this great Trivago story about 11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018. After all, San Diego Pride has been our hometown celebration together for more than 20 years.

San Diego Pride rubber ducky
Who doesn’t love a giant rainbow rubber ducky? San Diego Pride brings out all the colors.

Heck, we’ve even marched in the San Diego Pride Parade, and danced on parade floats (okay, maybe we were a little younger and more hard-bodied then). We’ve cheered from the sidelines, laughed and cried with the crowds, and taken our daughters to the parade since they were babies to celebrate with families like ours.

San Diego Pride rainbow tattoo
Sophia shows her pride with a rainbow temporary tattoo that looks appropriately festive for the occasion.

Now San Diego Pride has grown into one of the top 11 celebrations! If you are interested in visiting our beautiful city for Pride 2018, taking place July 13-15, check out staying at the Hotel Del Coronado. It’s a host hotel and sponsor of San Diego Pride, and they have a huge Pride kickoff event taking place there on July 11. If you go, please check out booking your stay through Trivago for a great rate.

Have fun learning more about Trivago’s 11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018. I wonder if anyone will hit them all?

San Diego Pride corporate sponsors
Sponsors like Harrah’s Resort Southern California get into the act for San Diego Pride with great parade contingents.

Wave that rainbow flag, baby!

 

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A Dad Among Moms at the Mom2.0 Summit http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/a-dad-among-moms-at-the-mom2-0-summit/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/a-dad-among-moms-at-the-mom2-0-summit/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 05:31:52 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=5050

I'm gearing up for my second foray into the mom blogging world with big plans to attend the Mom2.0 Summit this coming week on May 2-4. If it's anything like last year's experience, it's going to be a doozy!

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I’m gearing up for my second foray into the mom blogging world with big plans to attend the Mom2.0 Summit this coming week on May 2-4. Last year, my good friend Nicole Standley from The Jet Set Family encouraged me to go, and boy was I glad she did. Being among all those amazing and talented bloggers and influencers was a turning point for me, even though I was a dad among moms at the Mom2.0 Summit.

Vera Holroyd and Jon Bailey at Mom2.0
Old friends and new friends combine at Mom2.0 to celebrate and learn together. So glad to spend quality time with my close friend and fellow Hilton Hotels brand ambassador, Vera Holroyd of Passports & Spice.

A Dad Among Moms at the Mom2.0 Summit

Yep, out of the 700+ attendees at Mom2.0 last year in Orlando, I was among the rarified group of maybe a dozen dads in the crowd. At least we stood out! Passing each other in the halls of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Orlando, we men smiled and nodded – shaking hands, exchanging a few words, making friends. To be honest, I felt a little lost because I am not a woman (!) and also not a straight dad. I think I met one other gay dad there, and Mitch Chatain of Gay NYC Dad is accomplished and quite comfortable in his position. Me on the other hand? I felt awkward and tentative, not sure how others would react to my jam.

posing with Flipblogger
Mom2.0 Conference sponsors like Flipblogger make a big impact with attendees.

However, I quickly learned this was the perfect place for me to be. Many other attendees felt awkward and tentative, and there were lots of first-timers there just like me (only not male). They instantly drew me in with welcoming smiles and reassuring stories about their own journeys. I fell in love with all of them instantly.

Suddenly, we weren’t women and men – we were bloggers and influencers all there to learn and support one another. It was powerful and awesome to be a part of it.

attendees learning from conference speaker at Mom2.0
Every conference attendee at Mom2.0 Summit was there to learn, and boy did we ever! Here, Nicole Standley leads a session on travel blogging.

Instant Friends and Lifelong Supporters

With a few good friends and a number of new connections, I dove into the crowd with eyes and mind open. What I received in return was more powerful than anything I could have imagined – true and supportive friends who genuinely want me to succeed.

On an outing with the TODAY Parenting Team to Universal Studios, I boarded the bus at our hotel and sat randomly next to the most wonderful and inspiring woman. Adrian Harrold Wood, PhD and author of Tales of An Educated Debutante, drew me in with the story of her family and background. Her kindness made such an impression that night, I immediately found all her social media platforms and followed her like a crazy stalker. Our virtual friendship has remained strong, and I can’t wait to greet her with a big hug to catch up.

Adrian Wood, PhD
Tales of an Educated Debutante is one of the most intelligent, well-written, heartfelt blogs I have the pleasure of reading.

Another friend that same night has become a mentor of sorts. Catherine Pearlman of The Family Coach is an accomplished parenting specialist and successful author of the book ‘Ignore It’, and the short amount of time we spent together has grown into a steady mutual support system. Although we talk every so often, I can’t wait to see Catherine IRL and talk about that book I keep trying to write.

I met my good friend Amber Mamian of Global Munchkins at Mom2.0 last year, and our friendship has grown tremendously over the past year with many partnerships and knowledge exchanges. She’s destined for the big time (kinda already is a big deal) and I’m grateful for her wisdom and guidance.

Amber Mamian rocks it with her empire Global Munchkins.

I could go on and on about all the amazing women (and men) I am now fortunate to call my friends, all because of attending Mom2.0. I’m looking at you Dana Zucker, Sarah Hirsch, Kim-Marie Evans, Krista Rizzo and so many more.

Brand Relationships Strong and Sure

One of the other important things Nicole impressed upon me was the business of brand partnerships at Mom2.0. Feeling like a total newbie, I wasn’t sure what I could offer brands with my blog and circle of influence.

As it turns out, those brands could not have been more open and interested. When I realized I could just be myself and that is what brands really wanted to see from me, I found my inner strength. I began such a great connection with Kia Motors that now I have actually worked with them, and the same for TODAY Parenting, Marriott, Facebook and a host of others.

test driving Kia at Mom2.0
Kia shows up bigtime at Mom2.0, allowing attendees to test drive the latest models.

Oh, and Maybe an Iris Award

It’s been a long road from last year’s conference to this year’s Mom2.0 Tenth Anniversary Summit in Pasadena. I’ve worked hard, learned a ton, recognized how far I still have to go, and made endless lists of how to get there. Best of all, I’ve collected an amazing group of followers along the way that seem truly interested in my content and what I have to say.

I’m incredibly honored to be recognized by my peers and nominated for Best Dad Blog of the Year in the Iris Awards (the Oscars of the mom blogosphere). The group of dads on this list with me is absolutely stellar, and several of them are friends I will be rooting for on awards night. Jeff Bogle of Out with the Kids and Papa Does Preach‘s Mike Cruse, you’re my Kia crew! To Chris Read of Canadian Dad, Creed Anthony of Captain’s Log, Dad and Buried‘s Mike Julianelle and Someday I’ll Learn‘s Nate Day, I look forward to meeting you and cheering for whomever takes the stage as winner.

What a journey! From newbie to Iris Award nominee in one year. I have Mom2.0 to thank for giving me strength, helping me find my voice, providing me with a support system, and teaching me a TON of shit.

I can’t wait to see what this year’s event brings. My entire next year will be supercharged after this week!

 

 

 

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Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/helicopter-tour-of-the-grand-canyon-from-las-vegas/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/helicopter-tour-of-the-grand-canyon-from-las-vegas/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2018 04:39:57 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=4873

Our family is fortunate to have seen some amazing views from very high places, but nothing tops my recent helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. It was a breathtaking experience, hosted by Maverick Helicopters for a group of us staying at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

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*This post was sponsored by Maverick Helicopters and The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

Our family is fortunate to have seen some amazing views from very high places, such as hot air balloons in Turkey and helicopter tours in Kauai. However, nothing tops my recent helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. It was a breathtaking experience, hosted by Maverick Helicopters for a group of us staying at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

As many times as we’ve been to Las Vegas, we never realized how close The Strip is to the Grand Canyon. These two places could not be more different from one another, and Maverick Helicopters helped us see both from new perspectives. The trip was about four hours of fun, with so many sights crammed into that time that I got lost in all the beauty.

Departing from McCarran Airport

We boarded for our helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas by boarding at McCarran International Airport. Opposite the regular passenger terminals sits a group of hangars, one of which is dedicated to Maverick Helicopters. Flying a fleet of more than a dozen helicopters from this location, Maverick also has bases on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Maui and soon to open in Kauai.

safety briefing at Maverick Helicopters
Our Maverick Helicopters pilot prepped us with a safety briefing before we boarded.

It’s an easy shuttle ride from The Cosmopolitan to the Maverick hangar (they even come to pick you up at your hotel), where guests wait comfortably for a safety briefing and then boarding.

Soaring Away

With seating for seven passengers plus the pilot, the helicopter was surprisingly roomy. Surrounding by windows our sight lines were wide open, and as we ascended straight up into the sky, the Las Vegas Strip came into full view in all its glory. After a brief pass over the southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard, we headed straight out into the desert towards the Grand Canyon.

not a doggie bag
Is this a doggie bag, or something else? Good thing we didn’t need it – the ride was smooth and easy.

The ride was exhilarating. We dipped and soared across the the rooftops of East Las Vegas, low enough to see people in their backyards and yet high enough to see mountains on the horizon ahead. As we moved forward, our pilot took us on a wide turn in the sky that brought an amazing sight into view – one of the world’s most famous engineering achievements.

 

heading to Grand Canyon by helicopter
Heading out towards the Grand Canyon, there were plenty of gorgeous vistas before we ever got there.

The Hoover Dam

We had a chance to visit the Hoover Dam last summer on our great road trip of the Southwest, but this view from high above was just mind blowing. Our helicopter swooped around the canyon and approached the dam from the lower side, where the Colorado River flows out the bottom of the dam to continue on its’ way. Lake Mead sits above, blue and expansive, with Hoover Dam holding all that water firmly in place.

Maverick Helicopter tour of Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam looks so impressive from above, with its fortress barrier and engineering marvels.

As we soared above the dam, our pilot turned our vantage point to look south this time. Hovering over Lake Mead, we could see the top of the dam, the incredible drop to the river far below, and even little people standing on the top of the dam looking down. One of the most beautiful sights was of the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which spans the canyon with impressive arches in front of Hoover Dam. The photo opportunities were endless.

Lake Mead and Hoover Dam from above
Looking across Lake Mead from above, we could see Hoover Dam holding all the water with the Colorado River below.

Touching Down in the Grand Canyon

We powered on, reaching the crevices and deeply gouged earth of the Grand Canyon in just moments. The color of the earth changed color from dingy grey to a deep ochre red, with interesting variations in tone that are hard to notice close up. From high above, we viewed geological formations, striations in the canyon walls of color ranging from chalky white to blood red, and straggly plants trying for dear life to hang on to the steep walls.

Drinking Veuve by the Grand Canyon
Sitting about 300 feet above the Colorado River, we were descended into the Grand Canyon and resting on an ancient plateau.

Our pilot brought us down into the canyons, flying low over the Colorado River and between the high walls of rock on either side. It honestly felt like a video game, as we sped along with rocks whizzing by.

All of sudden, we came upon a cliff-side clearing, where other helicopters were parked in an area inaccessible by foot or boat. As we touched down, the wind from the rotors whirled up a cloud of red dirt spraying up to greet us. Safely on the ground, we stepped out of the helicopter and were greeted by picnic benches, umbrellas, and delicious Veuve Clicquot cocktails whipped up by The Cosmopolitan’s chief mixologist Mariena Mercer.

Mariena made us some killer Veuve cocktails, hanging out deep inside the Grand Canyon. Crazy cool!

Sitting on a rock, sipping Veuve and looking out over the Colorado River, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional. After all, how many opportunities do you have to helicopter into the Grand Canyon and touch down on a cliff side to take in the view? Yeah, me neither.

Buzzing The Strip

After the incredibly beauty of the Grand Canyon we were pretty quiet as we flew back towards Las Vegas, each passenger lost in our own thoughts. But we were delighted out of our reverie by the stunning view of the Las  Vegas Strip on the horizon. Sure enough, the pilot maneuvered us directly along the Strip. We flew over all the major icons of Las Vegas, including Fremont Street downtown, the Stratosphere, Caesars Palace, the fountains of the Bellagio, the tall towers of The Cosmopolitan, the pyramid of Luxor, and back to our starting point at the Maverick Helicopters hangar.

Las Vegas Strip birds eye view
Coming back into Las Vegas, we buzzed the Strip and flew directly over the hotels and casinos.

Back at The Cosmopolitan, I was so charged up from our helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas that I had to visit the spa for a massage. Luckily, the resort has an excellent spa called Sahra which was the perfect ending to an adventure filled day.

 

 

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Red Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault in Palm Springs http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/red-jeep-tour-of-the-san-andreas-fault-in-palm-springs/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/red-jeep-tour-of-the-san-andreas-fault-in-palm-springs/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 04:26:02 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=4809

The San Andreas Fault is the cause of some of the worst earthquakes ever seen. Yet there is great fascination with the Fault and the geology behind all this earth movement, and we greatly enjoyed our Red Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault in Palm Springs.

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*This experience was sponsored by Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours.

Growing in California, we’ve been taught to respect and fear the San Andreas Fault. After all, this Fault is the cause of some of the worst earthquakes our state has ever seen. Yet there is great fascination with the Fault and the geology behind all this earth movement, and we highly enjoyed our Red Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault in Palm Springs. (Even if it was a little spooky!)

Departing from East Palm Springs in a bright red jeep, we tumbled along the paved road until it ended in dirt. Our excellent and knowledgeable tour guide, Karen, peppered us with stories and facts about the history of the Coachella Valley. She was very good at keeping us interested and entertained, knowing the kids would lose patience quickly if they weren’t engaged in the conversation. At all costs, we wanted to avoid that teen eye rolling which signals an oncoming storm. This tour delivered the goods.

Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tour
The namesake Red Jeep of the Red Jeep Tour took us on a wild ride through the San Andreas Fault.

Red Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault in Palm Springs

When we hit the dirt road, things started to get interesting as we wound our way down a dusty trail towards the Little San Bernardino Mountains northeast of Palm Springs. Passing through several closed and locked gates, we entered private property that went on for miles and miles. Desolate and dry desert was our view in any direction except ahead, as we pointed towards rocky outcroppings in the distance. We were on our way to the fault line, but first we would stop for a visit to a real desert oasis.

Palm Oasis

Palm Springs is aptly named, considering the city and valley sit among a series of natural springs that bubble up through the desert. These little pools of water are enough to support some significant groves of California Fan Palms, which lend themselves to the city’s name – Palm. Springs. Duh.

California Fan Palms
In the middle of the desert, California Fan Palms thrive at this oasis near a natural spring.

Anyway, it’s pretty amazing to see these pockets of green in the middle of the rocky desert. And these oases are resilient too, making it through droughts and fires and a host of other difficulties to continue thriving and providing a wee bit of shade from the hot sun.

Slot Canyons

Winding our way towards the fault line, Karen drove the jeep through narrow canyons with rocky overhangs and roads that appeared too narrow for a jeep – but we made it. In one place, we met another jeep coming the opposite direction and it was touch-and-go as to who would have to  back up and pull over (we won). The farther into the canyon we drove, the tighter the canyon walls closed in. It started to feel a little creepy, and then it opened up again into a little clearing where we parked and got out.

hiking the San Andreas Fault
Hiking the slot canyons around the San Andreas Fault in Palm Springs made us a little neeeerrrvous.

High above, the cliffs were pockmarked with round holes where rocks had loosened from the cliff face and fallen to the ground below. Inside these holes live many desert creatures, the most regal of which is the Great Horned Owl. A night hunter, the nocturnal Owl hunts mostly small rodents and lizards (and the occasional rattlesnake), bringing them back to its lair for a tasty meal. Evidently it cannot digest the fur and bones, and spits them out in the form of this pellet-like thing. Karen found one and broke it apart with her bare hands so we could see the bones. This creeped the kids out big time.

Red Jeep Tour owl pellet
Our Red Jeep Tour guide Karen, holding an owl pellet, right before she used her bare hands to break it up and show us undigested bones and fur. Ugh.

Then we hiked into a slot canyon, slithering through the narrow crevices created by years of rumbling earth movement. Rocks teetered on cliff edges, and boulders perched at precarious angles, which Karen assured us was perfectly safe. We posed nervously for photos and got the hell out.

The San Andreas Fault is Not a Crack in the Ground

Reaching the San Andreas Fault, we were all surprised to see it was hardly visible – at least not directly. We were standing in the middle of it, hundreds of yards wide in either direction. The kids expected to see a giant crack in the ground, where if you looked down you might see the center of the earth. Nope, it’s more subtle than that in a scary way. The earth is moving all the time along the fault, sometimes slowly and sometimes abruptly causing what we know as an earthquake. The tectonic plates are sliding in opposite directions against each other, causing friction that sometimes slips and jars the land and its inhabitants.

rocky outcroppings near San Andreas Fault
Notice how happy Sophia looks in this photo – she just adored hiking in the hot desert sun.

Here, Karen explained, the slow friction and erosion cause the desert sands to fill whatever crack might actually exist in the Earth’s surface, A very fine sand is formed, and the most you see of the San Andreas Fault is a line in the sand. Literally. Except for the fact that there are two huge rock formations, slanting away from the fault on either side. It looks as though a knife cut through cake and pushed the pieces up on either side as it moved through.

No Man’s Land

Out in the middle of this nowhere, it’s hard to believe that anyone could or would want to live here. The Cahuilla Indians did, and made it their home for centuries before getting pushed out of their lands by settlers and the railroad. From what we learned on the tour, they had a pretty decent life figured out. Food, water, shelter and shade – doesn’t sound that bad to me!

Desert sign post to nowhere
The sign post in the middle of No Man’s Land near the San Andreas Fault. Good thing we were comfy in our Red Jeep.

Some intrepid “off-gridders” still occupy parcels of land out here, and we passed a couple of dwellings that were pretty isolated. Still, it’s only a short drive back into town for a nice umbrella drink and a set of tennis or two. And I bet the land’s cheap.

The Details: Red Jeep Tour of the San Andreas Fault in Palm Springs

The Red Jeep Tour costs $ 139 per adult/$114 for kids under 12 for three hours of fun, and it was pretty darn awesome. Our family has never done anything quite like this, and seeing the San Andreas Fault up close was a very unique experience. We’d definitely do it again!

Check the Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours website for details, or call +1 (760) 324-5337

 

 

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Getting the Vegetable Garden Ready for Planting http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/getting-the-vegetable-garden-ready-for-planting/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/getting-the-vegetable-garden-ready-for-planting/#comments Mon, 16 Apr 2018 00:00:35 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=4882

Every year we plant vegetables in our backyard with high hopes, and have come up with a process of getting the vegetable garden ready for planting that seems to work well for us. With Spring in full bloom and warmer weather on its way, we're happy to share with you some tips we've discovered in our efforts

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Every year we plant vegetables in our backyard with high hopes, and have come up with a process of getting the vegetable garden ready for planting that seems to work well for us. With Spring in full bloom and warmer weather on its way, we’re happy to share with you some tips we’ve discovered in our efforts.

Planting backyard vegetables seems so much more complicated than when I was a kid. Growing up in Northern California, the summers were hot and the fog kept at bay. We’d clear a patch of garden and my tiny little Italian mother would struggle with an automatic rototiller, pitching and lurching her way around as the dirt was tilled and prepared for planting. We’d sit on the sidelines and laugh at her until our bellies hurt. Good thing she had a great sense of humor!

vegetable garden with lettuce and onions
The pretty plants all in a row…

These days we’re all about adding the right amount of this and and a pinch of that, mixing the soil carefully by hand while sprinkling a light dusting of angel wings and unicorn horn to encourage maximum growth.

Kidding. But really, it has gotten pretty complicated. To make it easier, here’s our suggestions on getting the vegetable garden ready for planting.

Romaine lettuce plants
Rows of Romaine lettuce plants are showing a variety of colors, and all taste delicious in salads.

Getting the Vegetable Garden Ready for Planting

  1. Choose the proper location – Maximum sunlight is everything for a veggie garden, so scout out a place in the backyard unencumbered by trees or buildings that block sun at any time of day. Shade is not your friend.
  2. Consider installing raised beds – We made two 10′ x 3′ redwood beds, and each are two feet deep. This is great because it discourages crawling things from getting into the mix, plus makes it easier to bend down and work in the garden.
  3. Amend the soil – Depending on what type of dirt you have, you may need to add soil amendments to create a healthy growing environment. If too sandy, the soil will drain too quickly and the plant roots won’t have maximum opportunity to absorb water. If too dense or clay-based, the water will sit for too long and not drain away from the plants’ roots.

    vegetable garden soil amendments
    Adding amendments to the soil of your vegetable garden will help make for healthy plants.
  4. Fertilize the shit out of it – Excuse the pun but that is quite literally what you must add. Manure is rich with minerals that enrich the soil and encourage the plants to grow healthy and large.
  5. Add worm castings – Gross, but just do it. Worms are great for the soil because their poops add important elements that help plants grow. Plus if you buy moist castings there will be worm cocoons included, which will hatch worms to help aerate the soil.
  6. vegetable gardens benefit from worm castings
    Worm castings help the garden soil continue to fertilize itself with the help of good old earthworms.
  7. Choose vegetables that grow at different rates – I’m impatient, and I want to harvest vegetables sooner rather than later. I plant radishes and lettuces early, knowing they grow quickly. Right behind them I plant slower growing plants, that by the time I harvest, the fast plants will be growing into the space left behind.

    vegetable garden radish seeds
    Choosing fun seeds to plant is part of the adventure when planting a vegetable garden.
  8. Space plants carefully – Some vegetable plants need an enormous amount of room. We learned this the hard way by planting corn and watermelon, both of which overgrew their areas and crowded out other plants.
  9. Potatoes spread – Like a lot. Unless you have tons of room, consider planting potatoes in pots. Their root systems can spread quickly and you’ll be finding mystery potatoes in the ground for months.
  10. Plant marigolds – Intersperse marigold plants among the vegetable plants. They are natural bug repellents and may help keep pests away, plus they’re purty.

    Poppy is the Calilfornia State Flower
    OK, these are not marigolds – they are California Poppies. But they sure are pretty!
  11. Don’t over water – A very common mistake that will kill the plants. Tomatoes only need water when the soil becomes dry and the plant wilts slightly. Other vegetables may need more, but check to see if the soil is moist below the surface before watering again. Yellow leaves on tomatoes are a sure sign of overwatering.

    organic tomato plant
    Tomatoes are tricky to grow, especially where we live. Choose carefully for your climate.

Involve the kids in this endeavor. It’s important for them to understand how things grow, where vegetables come from, how to care for and nurture something and the ever-popular lesson of patience. Besides, it’s a fun and healthy way to spend quality time together outdoors.

Vegetable seeds come in many varieties
There are so many choices of vegetable seeds, and I like the ones that bring variety to the garden.

And boom! Before you know it, you’ll be harvesting up a storm of delicious fresh veggies.

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Cinco de Mayo Chile Rellenos with Corona Extra® http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/cinco-de-mayo-chile-rellenos-with-corona-extra/ http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/cinco-de-mayo-chile-rellenos-with-corona-extra/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2018 15:00:00 +0000 http://www.2dadswithbaggage.com/?p=4890

Every year we celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a little fiesta that includes authentic Mexican food, friends and family, and of course some ice-cold Corona Extra. This year, I’m feeling a little adventurous and am trying my own version of Cinco de Mayo Chile Rellenos.

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* This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Constellation Brands. All opinions are mine alone. The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older. #CelebratorySips #CelebrateWithCorona #CollectiveBias

In our family, Cinco de Mayo is a big deal. Every year we celebrate this holiday with a little fiesta that includes authentic Mexican food, friends and family, and of course some ice-cold Corona Extra. This year, I’m feeling a little adventurous and am trying my own version of our friend Chef Claudia Sandoval’s recipe for Stuffed Poblano Chiles (Chile Rellenos).

One of my favorite Mexican dishes, Chile Rellenos are mild poblano peppers stuffed with cheese, dipped in a fluffy egg batter and fried to a golden crisp. The cheese inside gets all melty while the outside is crunchy – always a delicious combination. The entire dish is then covered in a beautiful tomato broth. Mmmmm, just thinking about them makes my mouth water.

Poblano Peppers make great chile rellenos
Large fresh poblano peppers can be found in most specialty grocery stores, or better yet at your local farmer’s market.

Cinco de Mayo Chile Rellenos

Corona Extra in hand, I am ready to tackle this dish! Here’s what you need from the store:

For the rellenos:

  •      6-8 large fresh poblano chiles
  •      1-2 cups queso fresco (in the cheese section near the grated cheeses)
  •      1/3 cup flour
  •      frying oil
  •      6 eggs

For the sauce:

  •      yellow onion
  •      fresh garlic
  •      6-8 roma tomatoes
  •      3 cups chicken stock
  •      salt and pepper

Or if you are pressed for time, you can go off-recipe for a quicker sauce:

  •      1 can mild red enchilada sauce
  •      1 small jar mild green salsa
  •      1 cup chicken stock
poblano chiles on the grill
Charring the poblano chiles directly on the gas burner is a quick way, or you can throw them on the BBQ grill.

Roast the chiles:

  •      Put the chiles directly on the stove over the burner, turning and blackening the outside until   the entire chile is blackened.
  •      Put all the blackened chiles in a bag or covered dish, so the steam is trapped for about 5 minutes. This will loosen the charred skin from the chile insides.
  •      Take each chile out one at a time and peel off the blackened skin – it should come off very easily.
  •      Slice open one side and remove the seeds.

(Right about now, I usually get thirsty and that cold Corona Extra tastes pretty darn good.)

Corona Extra in the kitchen
While preparing the charred peppers, it’s nice to relax with a cold Corona Extra.

Batter the chiles:

  •      Stuff each chile with the cheese, careful not to overdo it so the slice can still close.
  •      Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites until fluffy, and fold in the scrambled egg yolks very gently until just mixed. Add flour and carefully mix in, making sure the whole thing stays fluffy.
  •      Dip each chile into the egg batter, and lay into a hot frying pan of cooking oil.
  •      Fry the chiles just a couple at a time until they are golden brown. Carefully remove when cooked to a pan or dish lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Repeat until all the chiles are cooked.
Chili rellenos egg batter
Fold the egg yolks into the whipped egg whites for a light batter to coat the peppers.

Make the sauce (if you are cooking it from scratch):

  •      Dice onions and fry with minced garlic in a little oil until translucent.
  •      Dice 2 tomatoes and hold aside. Puree the rest of the tomatoes in a blender, and add to pan with onions.
  •      Add chicken stock and diced tomatoes. Bring to boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat down to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until sauce becomes thicker.
  •      Add chiles into the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes or so, spooning the sauce over the top of the chiles so they are covered in goodness.
  •      Turn off heat, cover and let stand for about 10 minutes. This will soften the chiles and melt the cheese all the way.

Mix the sauce (if you are making the fast version):

  •      Put the canned enchilada sauce, the salsa and the chicken stock in the frying pan and simmer until hot.
  •      Add chiles into the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes or so, spooning the sauce over the top of the chiles so they are covered in goodness.
  •      Turn off heat, cover and let stand for about 10 minutes. This will soften the chiles and melt the cheese all the way.
Corona Extra served with homemade chile rellenos
The finished product, with a little drizzle of crema, goes perfectly with an ice cold Corona Extra.

Serve with pinto beans, rice and any other Mexican dishes your family enjoys. We usually have carnitas on the side as well, with fresh cilantro, diced onions and a squeeze of lime juice – yum!

Pairing with Corona Extra

Corona Extra is one of our favorite beers, not only because it tastes so clean, refreshing and smooth. This beer also represents a passport to Mexico, delivering a bit of that carefree vacation feeling every time we enjoy a sip. Perfect for a Cinco de Mayo party!  But we don’t need a celebration to enjoy a good Corona Extra – it tastes good with just about anything.

Corona Extra is easy to find at a store near you. Search our handy store locator for the location most convenient for you.

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