New York

Lower East Side in New York City, New York

Several years ago, our family went on an East Coast adventure, and our first stop was the Lower East Side in New York City. I had never been to New York, and the city was everything I dreamed it would be – and more! The Lower East Side has bustling streets, restaurants with every type of food imaginable, and one of the best interactive museums around. If you go to New York, plan to spend at least one day in this historic neighborhood.

The Reads

All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor – One of my favorite series growing up was Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family  series. The first book, All-of-a-Kind Family, starts with the adventures of five Jewish sisters growing up in the Lower East Side at the turn of the century. Responsible Ella, mischievous Henny, shy Sarah, imaginative Charlotte, and little Gertie are the five sisters, two years apart in age. They have adventures around their home and neighborhood, and the books sweetly reflect a different time and place in America. Highly recommended, especially for families with children between the ages of 6-12.

The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff is a picture book about an immigrating family that resonates with all ages. Grisha, an orphan, lives with his cousin Rachel and her family. When they immigrate to America, Rachel’s quick thinking saves Grisha and keeps the family together as they start their new life in New York.

One of the best books I read in 2017 was The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker. This intriguing blend of historical fiction and fantasy takes place in 1899, when Chava, a woman created from clay, and Ahmad, a genie, arrive separately in the Jewish and Assyrian neighborhoods around the Lower East Side. Their lives become entwined as they learn to navigate this changing community while keeping their supernatural nature a secret from all.

Rhys Bowen has several engaging mystery series, one of which is the Molly Murphy mystery series. Murphy’s Law is the first in the series. Irish Molly Murphy is on the run after accidentally killing her would-be assailant. She hops a boat to America and soon finds herself accused of a murder she did not commit. Molly must become a sleuth to clear her name and find the real murderer before she is locked up for good.


Even if you can’t make it to New York City, The Tenement Museum is a fantastic resource to learn about New York’s tenement buildings, and the people who worked and lived in them.

The Bowery BoysThe Bowery Boys have one of the best podcasts around. Full of New York City history and puns (I love a good pun), the two co-hosts focus on a different area of the city in each episode. Here’s one to listen to, and here’s one about the food of the neighborhood. They also have a well-researched and entertaining book about New York’s neighborhoods called The Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York.

If you go, don’t miss:

– A tour at The Tenement Museum. All of the tours are excellent and informative, but we especially loved the Shop Life tour.

– There are SO many fabulous restaurants in New York, but my favorites in this area are Russ and Daughters Cafe (the lox!) Pig and Khao (if you are adventurous, try the sisig-it’s amazing and the restaurant is known for this dish) and of course, Katz’s Deli (remember that famous scene from When Harry Met Sally?). The line may be long, but the pastrami and corned beef sandwiches are outstanding and worth the wait.



South Lake Tahoe, California


Mark Twain wrote in Roughing It (The Penguin American Library) that Lake Tahoe must be “the fairest picture the whole earth affords”, and it is hard to disagree with that sentiment. We are lucky enough to live about an hour away from South Lake Tahoe, so we get up to the mountains as often as we can. Several things make Tahoe an ideal place to plan your next adventure – the pristine lake, hiking trails for all levels of fitness, skiing down the snowy slopes, and gambling in glitzy casinos. It’s also the perfect place to unwind and read a book next to the lake, or by a crackling fire. If you can’t fit a trip in to Tahoe, hopefully the following books can take you there.

Two excellent mystery series take place in South Lake Tahoe, and although quite different, both series give the reader a vivid sense of life in South Lake Tahoe.

The Nina Reilly Series by Perri O’Shaughnessy
  Motion to Suppress is the first book in the series. Nina Reilly, a hard-working lawyer, recently divorced with a young son, has moved to South Lake Tahoe to set up her law practice. Misty Patterson, a cocktail waitress at a local casino, may or may not have killed her husband. He’s missing, there’s blood in the house, and she just can’t remember everything that happened the night before. All the evidence points to her guilt. Can Nina discover the truth in time? This mystery is fast-paced and full of suspense. I highly recommend reading the series in order because of how the characters and plots are linked.

The Owen McKenna Mystery Series by Todd Borg

  Owen McKenna is a tall, laid-back private investigator working the mean streets of Tahoe. With his Great Dane wonder dog, Spot, and his forensic entomologist girlfriend, Street, he investigates crimes around the Lake Tahoe area. The first book in the series is Tahoe Deathfall. Owen is hired by teen Jennifer Salazar to investigate her twin sister’s death in a fall years ago. Jennifer is sure it wasn’t an accident, and that she’s next. Unfortunately, no one believes her, and Owen is her last chance. The mystery highlights the gorgeous but sometimes deadly landscape of South Lake Tahoe, and the many people who call it home. All of Borg’s books highlight a specific aspect of Lake Tahoe, from arborglyphs to an extremely rare plant growing in the region.  It’s not necessary to read the series in order, but I would recommend reading Tahoe Deathfall first because it establishes the main characters.

If you’re looking to learn more about the history of Lake Tahoe, Michael J. Makley’s A Brief History of Lake Tahoe is a good place to start. Chapters include the Washoe Native American tribe, the timber trade, and the developments around the lake.


Here are a few websites to help you plan your South Lake Tahoe adventure:

Tahoe South– Tahoe South is a great place to get started planning your vacation. There is information on lodging, weather, activities, and events. Don’t forget to check out the webcams too!

Keep Tahoe Blue – If you make it up to South Lake Tahoe, you’ll see “Keep Tahoe Blue” stickers everywhere. This website showcases the challenges Lake Tahoe faces, and what people can do to help.

Tahoe Tessie – Lake Tahoe even has its own “monster”. Check out Weird California’s website to read all about Tahoe Tessie.

If you go, don’t miss:

Taylor Creek  This short, paved trail meanders through woods and meadow, boasts some stunning views, and even features a stream profile chamber to view fish at eye-level.

The Keys Cafe –  For the BEST smoothies and breakfast sandwiches, look no further than the Keys Cafe. Everything is tasty, but the Green Dragon smoothie is my favorite.

Red Hut Cafe– There are several locations for this Tahoe institution, all serving tasty breakfast and lunch entrees. The Red Hut Rosti with an egg on top will keep you going all day.

Lam Watah Nature Trail  – This trail winds through a meadow and some forest before ending at a beach on the Nevada side of the lake. It’s a popular trail with locals, but never too crowded, and you’ll meet many people walking their dogs.

Todd Borg, Author – Todd Borg has an outstanding website that highlights the area. At the Red Hut at Ski Run, you can even order an Owen Omlette, named after his private investigator!