7 Magic Mountains

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Signs of fall have slowly been inching into Reno one-by-one.  Many people would disagree with me, as it’s still in the 80s and 90s during the day, but as an early-morning barista, I know the true story.  It begins when I wake up in the morning before anybody else, and grab a sweater on the way out the door, because it’s 6:00 a.m., it’s in the late 50s, and my tank top isn’t cutting it.  I head to work, and still groggy, brew the drip coffee first thing.  I grab a mug, letting it warm my hands as I turn on the grinder.  The sunlight finally appears as I switch on the open sign, and Reno starts to warm steadily.  The kicker of this situation is that Reno is always at least a little bit cool when it’s dark outside.  That’s what makes it the perfect place to host bonfires and sit on the porch late into the night mid-July.  However, there’s a different feel to the air when it starts turning into fall.  It’s slightly colder, and the air smells different.  I don’t know how to explain it, but I know it when it appears.

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Although I absolutely love fall, it also signals the beginning of classes, which I will be attending in just a few, short days.  Naturally, I’m already missing summer and all of my little adventures.  A few weeks ago, I visited Vegas for my brother’s graduation party and to help my parents move some stuff into their new house in Reno.  I had recently been told about the 7 Magic Mountains, an art exhibit by Ugo Rondinone located in the middle of the desert, by a friend from the Nevada Museum of Art where I regularly volunteer.  Hearing about it, I knew I had to go.  Huge, brightly colored boulders in the middle of drab, dry Southern Nevada desert?  Amazing.

The drive out to the 7 Magic Mountains is super easy but a little confusing.  Just take the I-15 South to Sloan Rd., turn left onto Las Vegas Blvd, and drive for about 15-20 minutes.  However, you won’t see the exhibit itself until the last minute – this is the confusing part.  You’re driving and driving, and all you see is flat desert.  Then, a tiny hill, and then…suddenly there’s an enormous, rainbow sculpture right to the left.  Luckily, there’s a parking lot right out front.  After a short walk, you’re looking straight up at overwhelmingly large, neon rocks.

Now, I went to the 7 Magic Mountains in the midst of Vegas summer, when heatwaves radiate off of the pavement late into the afternoon, and you get an instant sunburn walking to your car.  While the exhibit was amazing, it was absolutely not the best summer activity.  But Vegas fall?  Beautiful!  This would be an amazing Sunday afternoon activity in late October/early November.  If you will be traveling there, please take a break from casinos and drinking, and go see this!  Locals of course should take the trip – Nevada culture is flourishing and so important to support!

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Accidental model pose.

Unfortunately, the 7 Magic Mountains have already been vandalized (this is why we can’t have nice things), but they are still breathtaking and worth the visit.  However, because of this, I want to give my little spiel on art: Artists work incredibly hard to improve this world through beauty, whether it’s painting, music, dance, sculpture, or any other medium.  Please be respectful to their art, support it, and love it.  Spread the word.  Help your community by supporting local museums and events.  If Reno can change as drastically as it has in the past few years, many communities can also.

Click here for more information on the 7 Magic Mountains.

Does the dress look familiar?  This might be why.  It’s one of my favorites!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Full Circle by Half Moon Run

 

 

Basic BLT

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Living in Reno means that I live a short three and a half hours away from the beautiful Bay area and amazing wine country, which has both its perks and its downfalls.  Perks include relaxing weekend getaways, good wine being delivered straight to local mom and pop’s doors, and the influence of The City* trickling into the BLC**.  And the downfalls?  Weekend getaways are $$$.  Good wine is $$$.  Then there’s The City’s influence on Reno…

See, Reno’s culture has significantly changed in the last few years.  Reno has gone from a failing casino city to a hip, local college town with amazing restaurants, bars, coffee shops, thrift stores, record stores, book stores, parks, events, music, etc. etc. etc.  Not all people appreciate BLC culture, but damn I love it.  However, with the influence comes the the traffic, and the increase in rent, and…the fusion.  Asian fusion.  Greek fusion.  Italian-German fusion with a twist of California fusion.  And, okay fine, fusion can be cool, but some things are just meant to be left alone.  Including BLTs.

It seems as if every restaurant I go to lately has “their version” of a BLT, with 100 other letters attached to the end to show how different their bacon sandwich is from every other restaurant.  BLTTC = Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Turkey, Cheddar, which I’m sorry is just a club sandwich.  BLTGC = BLT grilled cheese, which just shouldn’t be a thing.  And BLTA?!  A BLT with avocado?!?!  Okay, that one’s fair, and it works, but I have a slight allergy to avocado, so it doesn’t work for me.  BLTs should be BLTs and nothing more.  Nobody asked for this madness.

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Luckily, you have me to set the record straight.  Here’s how you should be doing your BLT.

  1. Grab a loaf of good bread.  I like sourdough, but white or buttermilk also work.  Toast it ya’ll.
  2. Bake your bacon.  I swear.  You better do it.
  3. Find a good tomato.  It has to be a good one.  Slice it thinly.  This isn’t a tomato sandwich.
  4. Freshly ground black pepper does wonders.
  5. Add avocado if you must, but please don’t tell me.

There’s definitely some gaps in there, but I’ll fill them in later.  For now, I want to clarify what is deemed appropriate to serve with BLTs.  Hint: it’s potato chips and beer.  Iced tea if you don’t drink alcohol.

Okay, that’s it.  Those are the rules.  And here’s the recipe:

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If you want some other do-not-mess-with-me recipes, check out my 3 Bean Chili and Vanilla Creme Brulee!

XO Sara Lynn

Song of the Day: Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg

*The City = San Francisco
**BLC = The Biggest Little City a.k.a. Reno

Ginger Old Fashioned

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Hello, my name is Sara Lynn, and I am a young NYC man living in the year 1958 a 20-something woman who loves Old Fashioned cocktails.  But you can call me Don Draper.

Today, I will be sharing my favorite Old Fashioned recipe, because it’s my birthday, and I will be celebrating with Bourbon, Angostura bitters, and orange peel all night long if I have my way.  However, I’ll try to sneak a lemon drop or Manhattan in, so I can feel like Carrie Bradshaw.  I may have an identity crisis at the end of the night, but so be it.  Tonight is for celebration and cake and drinks with my friends!

Last summer while I was in London, the beers and ciders became kind of mundane after my 200th IPA.  One night, a group of (other) Nevada students and I went to a bar down the road from our dorm where I asked the bartender if they could mix cocktails.  Ignoring the slightly dubious look in the recent high-school-grad-of-a-bartender’s eyes, I asked for an old fashioned, which he then responded with, “What’s in it?”.  It was then that I learned that old fashioneds are American cocktails, and that England is strictly for wine, beer, and cider.  Message received.

I had an old fashioned when I flew home to the states, and while London is my absolute favorite place in the world, I’d really love if they would learn the finesse of an old fashioned.  (Or, if I just ended up at the wrong spot, if a local could recommend a good place for some whiskey).  However, since the first time I tried an old fashioned, I’ve been obsessed and haven’t looked back.

My first old fashioned was made with Bulleit bourbon and served out of a Tigger coffee mug around Christmas time while it snowed outside.  That’s a true story.  I’ve come a long way since then, but I can’t say that scenario won’t reoccur.  I am in college after all, and sometimes Disney coffee mugs are the only vehicle for alcoholic beverages.  However, I still do not own whiskey mugs, so discount water glasses bought at Home Goods will have to do for now.  The classic old fashioned is made with sugar cubes, Angostura bitters, citrus peel, ice, and Bourbon.  However, with the warmer weather, I decided to twist it up with some grenadine and Ginger Ale to make it a little more summery.  I love slow-sipping drinks, and I definitely think this one is perfect for an outdoor BBQ.

If you are more of a traditionalist, you can make the recipe the classic way without the Ginger Ale, maraschino cherries, and grenadine.  Or, if you like a drier drink, you can sub Club Soda for Ginger Ale.  If you’re having a party, you can leave these ingredients out for people to make their own Old Fashioned cocktails while you cook or talk with your friends. Old Fashioneds are forgiving and appealing to most cocktail-drinkers, so I consider them the perfect party drink.

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As a bday present to me, please make this Old Fashioned tonight (or order one at your favorite bar😉 )

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Dreaming by Seapony

 

The Twenties: I Can’t Even Commit to Getting a Damn Hedgehog

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I don’t have a hedgehog, but here’s a picture of my dog, Sophie.

Last night, I had a dream that I got a pet hedgehog that talked to me.  Honestly, I like to believe that in my dream, she was my sidekick, but I actually don’t really remember the dream that well except that at one point, my hedgehog got stuck in a PVC pipe in my kitchen and was yelling, “Sara, help me, I’m stuck!” and I had to squeeze her out of the pipe.  Also, why was there a big PVC pipe in my kitchen?

Actually, no, why was the hedgehog talking?

I digress.  There’s a backstory to this.

For the past few years, I have really been wanting to get a dog.  I looooove dogs, and my house has always felt lonely without one.  However, I have big dreams of traveling after college, and at this time in my life I’m not home consistently, so I decided a dog is not the best choice for me at the moment.  Then a few weeks ago, I saw a picture of a hedgehog on Instagram, and this is another part that I don’t actually remember, but I guess that I must have become obsessed with them in the meantime, because lately I just cannot stop thinking about hedgehogs.  They are the cutest little roly polies, and apparently (from my extensive amounts of research), they’re also quiet, and odorless, and they’re totally low maintenance.  The perfect animal for a busy student.

So why can’t I commit to actually getting one?!

Okay, for starters, they’re like expensive hamsters.  They require the same materials, but since they’re exotic, they’re a good $200 more than hamsters.  However, they’re much cuter and friendlier, so I think it would be worth it.  However, I really do not think it is the price that is stopping me from getting a hedgehog but more the fact that I can’t even keep a damn succulent alive.  With my last pokey plant, I over-watered the thing a.k.a. I loved it too much, and it died.  Moral of the story: If I can’t keep a pokey plant alive, how do I keep a pokey animal alive?  I’m sure a living, moving thing would remind me to feed it and clean out its cage, but what if I hug it too tight or something?  Plus, apparently hedgehogs have to be kept in a 60*-75* F temperature constantly, and how do you regulate these things?  These are real life, first-world, Millennial problems, people.

Lastly, I have been trying to think of a punny hedgehog name for the past couple of days, and I really cannot think of one.  I simply cannot get a hedgehog until I have a fantastic name.

Anyways, I’ll probably end up getting a hedgehog at some point, but only when I stop being so crazy about it.  (Please note: I am NOT an indecisive person ever, so I don’t know how to deal with my feelings when I have an indecisive moment.  But hedgehogs are living things, you know?)

Any hedgehog owners out there?  Advice?  Thoughts?  How do you keep your hedgie warm?

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Wake Up by Arcade Fire

SF Coffee Recommendations

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As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit.  The foggy weather, public art, trendy restaurants, and bearded men get me every time.  Plus the coffee.  Because, as you also know if you’ve been following me for a while, I LOVE COFFEE.  Like, a lot.  So naturally, I have to write a post about my favorite coffee places.

Before I begin, let me first give you some of my qualifications.  1. It usually has to be specialty coffee.  I say “usually”, because of the “never say never” rule, and I can’t promise that I’ll never write about a non-specialty coffee shop.  For more info about specialty coffee, see here. 2. I have to be impressed by not only their coffee, but also by their employees and atmosphere.  That may not be fair, since really it’s all about the coffee, but there’s something to be said about the other aspects, too.  If I’m visiting a coffee shop on vacation, I probably want to hang out for a little while, and the atmosphere and employees should be pleasant.  3. I have to want to visit again.  I’ve been to specialty coffee shops that I’ve thought were okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again.  To make the list, it has to be a place I want to spend a lot of time at.

And there you go!  The list will be pretty short, because not all the places I visited were list-worthy, and I also didn’t get to make it to all of the shops I planned on visiting.  However, I’ll update this list as I continue to visit SF🙂

P.S. These are in no particular order.

1. Beacon Coffee & Pastry

If you’re staying near Fisherman’s Wharf, Beacon is a short walk away from most of the hotels and shops.  It was about an eight minute walk from our hotel, so not the closest, but definitely close enough for this coffee snob.  Their beans are roasted by Sightglass (see below), and they have great espresso drinks and a few snacks.  If you’re looking for a close, relaxing place to spend your morning before a day of shopping or tourist-ing, this is a great choice.  (Oops!  I forgot to snap a pic).

Beacon Website: http://www.beacon-sf.com/

2. Stanza Coffee Bar

Stanza is a cute, minimalist coffee shop in the middle of The Haight.  I love Haight Ashbury area, because they have really good food, some great thrift shops, and a killer record store that always has amazing finds.  I had never seen a specialty coffee shop there until this trip (I’m not sure how long Stanza has been there), so I was thrilled to see one! My recommendation would be a cappuccino.  Served the only specialty way, with silky foam.

Tip: They have another location in The Mission as well.

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Me and my cute mom enjoy capps at Stanza.  The only picture I got!

Stanza’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stanzasf/info/?entry_point=page_nav_about_item&tab=page_info

3. Sightglass Coffee

This was my second trip to Sightglass, and I loved it just as much the second time as I did the first.  I have only been to their 7th Street location, but I imagine their other locations are just as beautiful.  The cool part about their 7th Street location is that it is where they roast their coffee, and there are 2 stories, so you can watch the action happening below.  They had Ethiopian coffee, which has been difficult to come by this summer in Reno, so I was beyond stoked.  They also have really great espresso drinks.  Plus, they have cool swag for sale – it’s where I got my amazing Chemex pin pictured above!

Tip: They have locations in The Mission, The SF Farmer’s Market, SFMOMA, and soon on Divisadero!

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The roaster roasting.
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The baristas baristaing. (Creeper Confession: The guy in the blue shirt is so nice!!)
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The coffee situation upstairs.
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Wait, do they rent offices across from the upstairs bar area?  How do I get one?!
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The star of the show.

Sightglass website: https://sightglasscoffee.com/.

4. Four Barrel Coffee

Four Barrel is probably my favorite SF coffee to date.  Their Valencia shop has a lot of energy, local art, cool staff, and (of course) amazing coffee.  Honestly, it’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere near this neighborhood, because I would spend all of my tip money (unless they want to hire me?  Yes?  YES?!).  Anyways, aside from their fantastic marketing, mugs, and (duh) coffee, they have adorable coffee roasters.  I watched them dance when they weren’t looking (Creeper Confession #2).  However, I don’t think they would mind my watching.

Side note true story: They had this mug in their shop for the longest time that I loved, because it really embraced my personality.  Right when I decided to buy it, they went out of stock.  SO MANY TEARS.  See mug here.

Tip: They have locations at The Mill and in Portola!

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Dancing roasters in the way back.
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My coffee + my elbow

Four Barrel website: http://fourbarrelcoffee.com/.

My next stops include Blue Bottle and Ritual (which I’ve actually been to before, but I don’t really remember…)!  Any good SF coffee recommendations?

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Out of Tune by Real Estate *
…because I got to watch Real Estate perform this live while on holiday!

The Perks of Being a Wildflower

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When I was younger, I loved looking up the symbols of birth months – birth stones, astrological symbols, birth flowers; being a July baby: ruby, Leo, larkspur.  But, I was never all that excited about my birth flower, not compared to April with sweet peas or August with lilies.  I never saw my birth flower growing wildly in fields near my cabin in Utah or daintily posed in the floral section of the grocery in puffy bouquets sprayed with dense TDZ.  I had no idea what a larkspur was, and I had completely forgot about them, right until recently when, while scrolling through the Travel Nevada Instagram, I noticed a picture featuring a vibrant, purple field of flowers with an orange sunset setting the scene.  Larkspurs!  I had finally found them, and they were so close!  I was (clearly) excited, until I reached my destination and realized I was actually looking at…

Lupines.

Also, I had missed prime lupine season, so all I was going to find after an hour drive to Lake Tahoe at 7 p.m. after an 8 hour shift was a bunch of green bushes with a few leftover purple flowers slowly closing for the season.  But never the matter.  I was at the lake, it was a beautiful day, and fields of green and purple are even better than just fields of purple, in my personal opinion.  However, my favorite color has been green my whole life, so I may be biased.

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Apparently, the best time to visit the lupines is in June, when the weather is warm, the lake is higher, and the water can reach the bushes.  There are fuzzy, mostly-black bees swarming the flowers, and little orangey-red ladybugs fly around with them.  I also found a tiny, secluded beach where the wildflowers are abundant, and I spent a quiet evening relaxing in the sand and watching the sunset.  After a few hours at the beach, I stopped by one of my favorite local pizza places, Wild Garlic, where I had cheese pizza with plenty of jalapenos, ranch, and honey (for the crust.  A Reno thing, I believe).  After a long day at work, I was very excited to relax and enjoy some me time, especially in such a serene place.

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Pictured here: My new Lucky dress, which is definitely a favorite. Similar.
My old, trusty lace TOMS that I wore to my high school prom years ago. Similar.
Jewelry made by my aunt🙂

If you’re visiting Reno or Tahoe, and want some good local recommendations, feel free to reach out!  I’d love to share my favorite spots🙂

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Asleep by The Smiths

 

High-Altitude (and Sea-Level) Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

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My life of late has been one big mess of a situation, and normally when that happens, I like to revert to simplicity rather than complicate things with multiple different factors.  Aside from a number of other difficult life events happening, last week I lost my grandmother unexpectedly.  Don’t worry though, this isn’t going to be a gloomy post🙂.  While of course I am incredibly sad, I also have some amazing memories of my grandma, growing up visiting her ranch out in Washoe, Nevada and riding horses.  My grandma loved Native American history and traveled around Nevada for archaeological digs. She had a huge passion for animals, particularly horses and dogs, and she loved making large, comforting meals for the family – and the dogs.  True story.  One time, my aunt had a friend over, and when she learned that the 2 roasted chickens resting peacefully on the counter were for the dogs, she may have lost her faith in humanity.

However, that was my grandma.  She was quiet, but she always made me laugh with her simple, non-obvious sense of humor.  Before we went shopping one day, we were walking out the door, and she raised her fist in the air and said with passionate spirit, “Let’s go kill something!”.  She could go to Sephora and spend $400 on just eyeshadow and nail polish.  She loved going to restaurants and talking to me about my plans for my education and travel.  She taught me to never take no for an answer.

And yellow cake with chocolate buttercream was her favorite cake.  She passed that on to the whole Hunt family, and aside from a special recipe for chocolate cake, this was always a family favorite that I associated with my grandma.

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Going back to simplicity, I think yellow cake with chocolate frosting is one of those classic recipes that everybody has some kind of connection with.  I love when food has a story behind it, and I definitely can think of happy memories behind this recipe.

Since moving to Reno, I have not been able to make a normal cake without it sinking and turning crusty.  I can make any other type of baked good, and it comes out beautifully, but cake does not come out ever.  I have since resorted to using high-altitude cake recipes, which at first I was sad about, because I have a perfect sea-level cake recipe, but luckily, I was able to find an amazing high-altitude cake recipe that I have tweaked to my liking.  It’s super easy, delicious, simple, and adaptable.  (But no worries!  If you live at sea-level, I have those adjustments for you also).

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*Adapted from Good Life Eats

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Sea-level adjustments: Use 1 Tbs. baking powder, 1 1/4 c. buttermilk, and 1 1/2 c. sugar.  Bake at 350*F for 14-16 minutes.

Cheers to an amazing lady.  I love you Gram!

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Songbird by Fleetwood Mac