Donner Lake/Truckee Area Vacations

Many people pass by the Donner Lake/Truckee area heading east on Interstate 80 on the way to Reno or other parts east, but have never stopped to see what it is about. We hear about the area every winter on the weather reports because when it is snowing chains are often required at “Donner Summit”. For westbound winter travelers Truckee is the place to install chains and drive through the Cal Trans checkpoint before heading west over the summit.  The Donner area is also famous for being known as the place where the Donner Party tried to cross the Sierra Nevada’s in the middle of winter. Many in the group perished as they were ill prepared for the snow that was there.

If that is your only knowledge of the area, then you are missing out one of the jewels of California. The Truckee area is a great place to stay and play. It’s a cute little town with a lot of history. Historic Old Town Truckee has many restaurants and shops to choose from. It is also the gateway to enjoying other destinations. More on that later.

Our family has been vacationing in the Donner Lake area for the past 20 years. It’s a beautiful area. The lake is very pristine and clear. It’s not nearly as famous or as big as it’s neighbor Lake Tahoe. What it lacks in size and notoriety it makes up for with it’s charm and beauty. It is very quiet and peaceful. A great place to relax with the family or friends. There are many cabins to rent in the area. Lake front cabins range from $1500 a week to $5000.  Many cabins are large and perfect for multi family or large groups. There are also cabins to rent that are not on the like that are much more affordable.  Most of these cabins are not really cabins, but spacious, luxurious homes. There is nothing like waking up and walking down to the dock and enjoying the sunrise. The air is cool, the lake is like glass. There are very few boats out except for a few fishermen.  You can find cabins on or our preference is Donner Lake Vacations. If something smaller is more to your liking, the Condos at Donner Lake Village are another excellent choice. One or two bedroom condos with direct lake access on their own private docks. They are also just a steps away from the Donner Lake Marina where you can rent boats, jet ski’s, kayaks, paddle boards and more to enjoy your time on the lake.

Summer and winter are the big seasons for the area. June through Labor Day are the busy months. Reservations usually need to be made months in advance. Most homes only rent out by the week during this time. Some offer a floating 2-3 day rental. Some are also pet friendly. In Winter time, the busy season is December through early April. Many of the rentals are available for a ski lease.

Summer time activities for the area include hiking, boating, fishing and golf. The Truckee area is home to some of the best and most scenic golf courses you can find any where. There are at least 4 championship public courses within 10 minutes of downtown Truckee. Your only 45 minutes from Reno. 15-20 minutes from the north shore of Lake Tahoe, an hour from South Lake Tahoe.  If you like fishing, there are a number of nearby lakes. There a lot of hiking trails nearby. Donner Lake is roughly at the 6000 foot elevation level. Donner Summit is over 7000 feet. If you like to bike, it’s a good challenge to go from lake level to the summit.

Winter time is when the location can be most advantageous with numerous ski resorts within just a few miles. You are 15 minutes from Squaw Valley, Northstar,  Sugar Bowl, Boreal and Tahoe Donner to name a few of the skiing locations. It’s a much easier drive through Interstate 80 than using Highway 50 to the Lake Tahoe area.

Next time you are thinking of a place to go, consider the Donner Lake/Truckee area. It’s only 90 minutes from Sacramento. Definitely worth the drive.


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Quicken and Quickbooks Accounting Software For Mac

I had been using Quicken and Quickbooks for Windows for over 15 years. I had heard nothing but bad things about the Mac versions of both, but especially Quicken. I have been switching over to a Mac for most everything but kept one foot in the Windows world with the financial software because I was reluctant to change. So for the past year I have been switching back and forth between a Mac and Windows computer. I finally decided to give the Mac versions a try.

I’ll start with Quicken. I looked on check out prices and reviews. Quicken for Mac is about $52 for the digital download. They offer a 60 day money back guarantee so you really have nothing to lose in trying it. The reviews were mostly bad. For some reason Intuit which owns Quicken does not put the same effort into the Mac version they do with the Windows version. That’s odd. Many programs that work on both types of computers are pretty similar. You can read the reviews at the link above. I went ahead and downloaded it on to my Mac. Before I transferred any data I updated it all and reconciled it too. I followed the instructions on transferring data and it went very well. I was a little bit off on one of my accounts. I use Quicken to track multiple checking and savings accounts. I have some transactions that are the same each month so I schedule them to be automatically entered into Quicken. For some reason a couple of the transactions were duplicated for the scheduled transactions. Luckily I was able to find them easily. I went back to a point where the balances were the same on the same dates for my Windows and Mac versions and then went forward from there and found the issues. I would suggest probably deleting any scheduled transactions before transferring to eliminate that issue and then you can always schedule it again afterwards. The look of the Mac version is different for the checkbook register. The default view is very different, but you can add in all the same categories so it will be the same, but not look the same. The next difference is when you auto download transactions from your bank on the Mac version it goes right into the register. In the Windows version you have the option to accept all the new transactions at once or manually match with what you may have already entered. Not a big deal, but different. The other major difference is in reconciling. The Windows version gives you all your debits on one side and credits on another in another window.  The Mac version uses the register window for reconciling too. You enter in the dates for the bank statement and then it automatically reconciles every transaction during that time. You have to uncheck any that have not cleared the bank. Any checks that have not cleared, you have to uncheck them. Then the next month when you reconcile and enter in your dates, it will not automatically pick up checks that were not previously reconciled. You have to go back and check those manually. You had to do that with the Windows version, but the unreconciled checks automatically were shown on the reconciliation window and you could check them from there. So for example in the Mac version, let’s say you wrote out a check that was not cashed for two months, you have to remember to go back and look for it when you reconcile next. Not hard if you do multiple months at the same time, but if you’re doing it one month at a time you may forget and then not know why your account is not reconciling. All in all, it’s not too bad. I have become acclimated to it now and it works pretty well. Again, you have 60 days to try it. You can still keep your Windows version and still use that at the same time.


The Quickbooks version for Mac also comes with a 60 day money back guarantee. It runs about $175 for the digital version. The Mac version is much more similar to the Windows version. I switched from Quickbooks for Windows 2o13 to the 2015 Mac version, so I am not sure how much of the differences are the Mac version or the 2015 version. There are some differences in the appearance. Everything is very similar. Quickbooks is also owned by Intuit as is Quicken. I can download transactions from my local credit union on Quicken, but not on Quickbooks for both the Windows and Mac version. Not sure why Intuit can’t make it work the same for both Quicken and Quickbooks. If you’re holding on to the Windows version because you are afraid to switch to the Mac version, don’t be. It’s very similar and easy to use. Again, check the reviews and see if any pertain to your business first. Ask questions, look online for some answers to make sure it will work for you. Just like with Quicken, you can keep your old version and still use it at the same time until you feel comfortable.



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iPhone 6 Rechargeable Case

If you’re finding out that your iPhone doesn’t have enough battery life to get you through the day without having to plug in to charge at home, work or on the go. Then a rechargeable case may be what you need. The rechargeable case gives you an additional 100% battery life, which means your phone will last twice as long. Perfect for those days where you are out and about and won’t have access to a charger. The cases are light weight and not too bulky. The phone slips easily in and out of the case, so if you don’t need it, you can take it out.


The cases come in black, black and silver, white and gold. The price is $39.99 through Amazon.

iPhone 6 case

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Fit Bit Flex replacement band

If you have a Fit Bit Flex and have had it longer than 6 months, you may notice that the band starts to break down where you insert the Fit Bit tracker into the band. I have had mine now for 15 months and I just had to purchase my third band. If you go to the Fit Bit website, they offer them for $14.95 or 3 for $29.95. Those come in an assortment of colors and may not be ones you like. You will also be charged for shipping.

A better option is to go to and buy them from a 3rd party dealer there. I recently bought a Fit Bit Flex Band for $6.99. Because I am an Amazon Prime member I also received 2 day shipping for free. If you’re not a Prime member, you can sign up for a 30 Day Free Trial. On this purchase alone you can save over $10 through Amazon Prime.

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Carnival 3 day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico

We recently took a cruise on Carnival with our 2 kids. My wife and I have been on a couple of cruises before and decided we wanted to take our kids on one to see if they like it. We chose the 3 day cruise that leaves from Long Beach and goes to Ensenada and back. It’s the cheapest cruise any of the major cruise lines offer. Depending on when you book it, the prices can be as cheap as $15o a person. Most are going to be in the $250-350. We booked ours only a few weeks before. Our price was $320 a person. By the time you add in taxes, fees, tips for the employees, it came out to just under $500 a person. We chose to drive to Long Beach. Gas cost us around $140 vs air fare for 4 people, plus a taxi or shuttle.

The cruise leaves Long Beach around 6 pm on a Friday and returns around 8 am on a Monday morning.

On Saturday morning the boat docks in Ensenada Mexico by 8 am. There you can get off the boat if you choose and explore Ensenada. There are a variety of activities there that you can do including horse back riding, going to the beach, going to the see La Buffadora (The Blow Hole) and the flea market there. The blow hole is one of only 3 in the world. The other two being in Hawaii and Australia. It’s nothing more than a rock formation near the ocean and when the tide comes in, water spouts up from crevices in the rocks much like a geyser. It’s a 45 minute bus ride to see it. The cost is around $15, depending on where you catch the bus. Booking tours on the ship is always more expensive than booking it after you get off the boat. During your trip to the blow hole you can also experience the flea market there. They sell lots of goods there. There are some restaurants and taco places. We stopped and had tacos at a place called Lidia’s Tacos. They were excellent.

The cruise leaves Mexico by 6 pm and slowly heads back to Long Beach. It takes 13 hours to get from Long Beach to Ensenada the first night and then 36 hours to get back to Long Beach. The boat stops at various times during the return trip. Sunday is a day to spend on the boat. They have a lot of activities during the day to keep everyone occupied. They also have a pool, couple of spas and a waterslide area.

The great thing about a cruise is all your food is included and there is always food available to eat. They have buffet style eating for all 3 meals or you can order off the menu. They have pizza open 24 hours a day. Alcohol and sodas are not included in the price, Carnival offers various programs where you pay a flat fee and it includes your drinks.

For dinner you have the option of eating in the dining rooms and order off the menu or the buffet. We ate all 3 nights in the main dining room, The food was excellent. Every day it was a little different. Choices usually included fish, chicken, meat and pasta. There were plenty of appetizers as well. Dinner was served in 2 shifts. One at 6 pm and the other at 8:15 pm. You choose which time you want when you book your cruise. We chose the earlier time.

There is a lot of entertainment on the cruise. There is music every night. They have comedians on board that do two shows each. The first show for each one is for all ages and there is no cursing. The later shows are typical shows and kids are not allowed. We were lucky on our cruise to see two really good comedians. One was excellent. His G rated show was very funny and the R rated one was even better.

The ship also offers a running track on the top deck with a 9 hole mini golf course in the middle. The track is about 140 meters, so 3 laps is roughly 1/4 mile. There is also a large gym with weights, treadmills, elliptical, and bikes. There is also a sauna, locker room and spa services as well.

The service on the cruise is excellent. They come in and clean your room, turn down your bed in the evening. The ship is kept very clean. There are over 900 members of the crew on board.

If you’ve never taken a cruise and want to try it or want to take your kids on a cruise and not break the bank, then this is the one for you. The Carnival 3 Day Ensenada Cruise  is a good value for the price. If you want something a little bit longer, Carnival offers a 4 days cruise that stops in Catalina Island before heading to Ensenada. That cruise leaves on a Monday afternoon and returns Friday morning.

Photo Aug 07, 4 11 56 PM Photo Aug 07, 4 12 07 PM Photo Aug 08, 6 45 06 AM

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The Butler Movie Review

Last night my wife and I went to see the Butler, the movie that was just released recently.  To be honest I had not heard of the Butler until my wife mentioned a few days ago and said she wanted to see it. At the same time there was a discussion on our website, Elk Grove Laguna Forums about the movie. I had no idea who was in it, so after my wife said she wanted to see it, I Googled it to see what it was about. I saw Oprah Winfrey was in and got the basic premise of the movie, a black butler who served in the White House under numerous Presidents.  On our website a few people said they would not see the movie because of Oprah Winfrey and also Jane Fonda due to her role in the Vietnam War. I heard Fonda only had a brief cameo. To be honest, I never saw her in the movie. Not that I looked for her either. Her role must have been very brief. Yesterday I was talking with a close friend and he asked what I was doing yesterday and asked if I wanted to play golf and I said I couldn’t because I had stuff to do and also because I was going to dinner and the movies with my wife. I said we were going to see the Butler and his reaction was, “why are you going to see that liberal movie?” I told him when I agreed to see it that I didn’t know what it was about and that my wife wanted to see it. We both had a good laugh because that was the real reason we were seeing it.

After the discussion on our website I decided to see it with an open mind. I am fan of history so I knew from that point of view I would probably like it. From what I read on various Internet sites, I was expecting a movie that was very political and from a liberal perspective. I would have to say that the people commenting never saw the movie or saw from a different perspective than me. I’m sure there were moments of subtle politics I may have missed because I was not looking for them. I didn’t go looking for historical inaccuracies or to see if it had a liberal slant. I’m not saying there may not have been some, but I didn’t notice them. The movie is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen. The movie is a fictionalized account of his life. I didn’t realize this until after seeing the movie. That sort of changes the movie for me. I felt as if the movie had a Forrest Gump type quality to it in that just as Gump happened to appear in huge moments of history, so did Cecil. He was there and witnessed conversations between the various President’s and advisers. I had assumed that most of that was true, but knew they likely embellished some details. I would suggest not doing any fact checking before seeing the movie as it will change your perspective of the movie. I am glad I waited until afterwards as some very important parts of the movie are fiction.

The Butler is a movie about a black man, Cecil Gaines, that grew up in the cotton fields of the south with his family. Mariah Carey has a brief cameo as his mother. When he was a child his mom was raped by the plantation owner. His father knew what was happening but did nothing. When the owner returned after raping his wife, the father did stand up and was murdered.  The matriarch of the family then took him in and made him a server at her house and referred to him as a “house nigger”. He stayed there until late teens early adulthood when he decided to leave the plantation. He was unable to find a job until one night he broke into the restaurant of a hotel because he was hungry. From there he tutored under an older black man at the hotel and learned how to become a butler. Forrest Whitaker has the role of Gaines at the hotel in DC.

From there he went to work at hotel in Washington DC where he was noticed by someone at the White House who was in charge of hiring the staff. He was then hired to be a butler at the White House under President Eisenhower. Then we see his life as he serves under the various Presidents. He is married to Oprah Winfrey’s character and has 2 sons. The heart of the movie is the parallel worlds of black people living in America during the Civil Rights era. Gaines is a black man living a pretty good life, serving a white president. Meanwhile his oldest son, Louis, has went away to college in the south where he becomes involved in the civil rights movement and sees how black people are treated. The two have a falling out over the son’s actions. The son becomes involved with the Freedom Riders and eventually Martin Luther King. Some of the most powerful scenes are the butler serving meals at state dinners and serving the President, while his son is engaged in protests in the south, being beaten and put in jail. His son was with MLK when he was shot. He eventually went to work with the Black Panthers before leaving because he disagreed with the violent nature of the panthers.

In all 7 presidents are shown. The real life butler started work at the White House under Truman, but he was not depicted in the movie. Actors portrayed Eisenhower (Robin Williams), JFK, LBJ, Nixon and Reagan. Brief scenes were shown of Ford and Carter speaking in real life, but no interaction between them and Gaines. The movie skipped from Nixon to Reagan for the most part. It was during the Reagan term that Gaines left his job. Then it skips to the end where Barack Obama runs for President and wins. That is kind of the rah-rah moment of the movie. It seemed gratuitous to me, but that may have been the one time where my bias got in the way. The ending of the movie shows Gaines at the White House going to meet President Obama. Some of the movie is narrated by Gaines and shows him sitting in a chair, waiting to meet the President.

The acting in the movie was excellent. Whitaker and Winfrey did an excellent job. It has to be the front runner for the Academy Awards. I am not a fan of Winfrey in general, but I thought she did very well and I wouldn’t let it stop me from seeing the movie. Overall I think the movie did a good job of portraying the Civil Rights era to the best of my knowledge. While some of the characters may not be accurate, the time period is. I think it’s a movie that everyone should see as it sheds more light on what black people went through during that time. It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago our country went through this and that it took 200 years of our country’s existence to make right that which was so wrong on how such a large segment of our population was treated so poorly. It’s a movie we will be showing our kids when it comes out on video. Earlier this week we saw the movie 42 about Jackie Robinson. Two very powerful movies about racism in America. I think it definitely gives us a different perspective, especially for those under 50 who don’t remember the civil rights era. We study some of it in school, but seeing it portrayed in a movie I think hits home that much more.

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Helping Foster Kids

Last week there was a horrific story out of Davis regarding the Families First Facility and how kids in this facility were not being watched and the abuse that was going on that eventually led to the arrest of 13 & 14 year old boys in the rape of an 11 year old girl.

Our website had a discussions about it, Davis Foster Care.  Some of our members have been involved in helping foster kids and had some suggestions on changes and ways things can be improved. One of our members is in law enforcement and offered their perspective on this issue.

Yesterday I saw something online about an organization that is doing something about this right here in Elk Grove.  A local high school teacher, Mike Jones at Monterey Trail High School has helped form Courageous Connections.  There was a nice writeup about the organization in EdSource.  They are helping foster kids in Elk Grove have normal lives.

I posted the story on our website, Supporting Foster Children in Elk Grove, to give an example of how things can be changed and hopefully give people a chance to participate if they want to. Also to help promote this organization to even more people. One of our members suggested contacting Courageous Connections and offering to help. I emailed Mike Jones and invited him to sign up and participate and maybe give us more information on what they are doing. Within a few minutes he had done just that and told us more about what they needed. One specific need was a storage facility of some kind. I was contacted offline by one of our members, Connie Conley, who said she saw the story on our site and contacted Mike Jones and they may have something they can provide. There are other items and things the organization needs.

We often talk about how it’s not the role of government but private parties and charities to help take care of people. This is a chance for those who want to help out whether it’s with money, time or supplies to do just that and see where their donations are going.  Hopefully we can create more awareness of this issue and help this organization and others provide a safe place for kids who don’t have a family to have normal lives.

Doc Souza
Elk Grove Laguna Forums

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