A Quickie in San Diego

July 29, 2015
After weeks of Frank working extremely long days and me being cooped up in the apartment with a busted ankle, we were anxious to get away. We booked a trip to San Diego the first chance we got. Unfortunately, hotel rates were insane. The highest I've seen. It was a week after Comic-Con so I'm not quite sure why, but I turned to Airbnb as an alternative. I was able to secure a private room and bath in a charming house near the airport. The location couldn't be more centralized. In the past, I've only booked entire places so I was a little curious how this stay would go.

Getting to San Diego took ages, it was a 6.5 hour drive. Which is highly unusual especially since we left Friday morning. I expected little to no traffic, but it was stop and go the whole way. We were starved by the time we arrived at El Indio. We couldn't decide between taquitos, fish tacos or tamales. So, we got it all. It hit the spot.

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Thankfully, our host was flexible with our late check in. She met us at the house, showed us around and let us know she'll be staying at her daughter's so we'd have the place to ourselves. The accommodations were comfortable. It could only be better if it was a king bed, but we knew it was queen when booking. We spent a lot of time on the front porch, it offered nice views from downtown to the airport. We even could see the nightly fireworks at Sea World. Because we were blocks from the airport, the planes were noisy. They didn't disturb us, though, we enjoyed watching them fly overhead. Frank grew up next to Midway so it bothered him none, and I had no issue since flights were halted overnight.

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Friday night, we barhopped; beginning at Ballast Point. Sculpin IPA is what converted me into a lover of hops. I've loved everything I've tried from Ballast Point since, so I was most excited to check out the brewery. I tried 5 or 6 beers and not one was disappointing. At 9pm the patio closes due to a noise ordinance or something which is kind of ironic since planes are flying overhead. We bonded with a couple over beers, and learned we had so much in common we became fast friends. They recommended we go to Kettner Exchange, it was a trendy bar with a relaxed vibe. Plus, a nice beer selection. We snacked on a burger and tacos, which were really good too. Our last stop was The Waterfront, San Diego's oldest bar. It's more of a dive, but I like dive bars. We had a lot of laughs. It was a good time.

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Storms struck the next morning and lingered most of the day. So, no beach for us. We, of course, hit up Con Pane Bakery first thing. We stuffed ourselves silly. Hit up La Puerta for happy hour before the Padre's game. Thankfully, the clouds parted and skies dried up just before game time. It was my first ballgame this season. It was long over due. We were undecided on dinner for that evening, but ultimately we opted to make late reservations for Juniper & Ivy. We had no trouble securing a 10:30 reservation about an hour before.

The restaurant unexpectedly opens up into a cavernous space. It was a pleasant surprise. Delights continued, we were immediately drooling over the menu. I wish we had the appetite to try one of everything, but we reeled it in and chose a few items to share. We started with flaky light biscuits, followed by Baja Yellowtail, Baja Stone Crab, Duck Pastrami, Grilled Carrots and Rabbit Loin.

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Everything was really delicious, but the duck pastrami was the least favorite. The carrots and rabbit loin were the best surprises. And I'm still thinking about the yellowtail. These dishes were expertly executed it was so much more than flavor, texture and beauty were showcased. Nothing was by accident, every detail was considered. I really appreciate meals that entice diners in this manner. We chose great wines from the suggested list, too. It was a top notch experience in every way. I can see why Richard Blais achieved such great success with Top Chef.

We finished our night in the Gaslamp at the Cuban Cigar Factory. People watching on 5th street is always entertaining. Leaving, we walked a few blocks to avoid the madness when called for Uber. Unfortunately, our driver was stuck in it. So, it took a while for pick up. We had slow service in Little Italy too. However, pick ups were a breeze from the Airbnb house. Still, San Diego definitely provided the most sluggish ride sharing, we've encountered so far. Even so, it's incredibly convenient and I adore it. It seriously needs to get back up and running in Vegas!

After check out on Sunday, we loaded up with goodies to take home from El Indio and Con Pane. Then, hit the road for home, in hopes to avoid traffic on the way home. There was still a lot of stop and go, but we made it in about 5 hours. It is amazing how even the shortest getaways can recharge the batteries. Since we missed the beach, this time, we'll have to arrange another trip sooner rather than later.

Like New

July 23, 2015
The day after putting an offer on the house in Green Valley, a new second story home came on the market. It immediately drew my attention. Frank's initial reaction when I sent him the link was "meh". A couple days later, we scheduled a showing for that and another house which was single story, smaller and older. We liked both, each had potential, but we were fixated on the two story. It is two years old, it has four bedrooms, three baths, loft, covered patio, outdoor kitchen, and the pool and hot tub were just completed this January. The only thing wrong with this house was the flooring. It has unsual green grey carpet throughout and vinyl flooring in kitchen and baths. I saw this as an opportunity to make it our own and possibly build some equity. Flooring isn't an overwhelming task. Even better was that our neighbors have single story homes and behind us is a vacant lot. So, we should maintain privacy for many years. It seemed promising. We decided to write an offer.

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Again, there were multiple offers. However, we were able to strike a deal without getting into a bidding war. Barring any issues, closing is scheduled for 30 days from when we signed the contract.

Greenlit

July 16, 2015
After walking away from the Toll Brothers house, Frank and I were torn between renting and buying a house. There were pros and cons to each, I started looking at available rentals and realized that they were renting for what a mortgage would cost. That led us to beginning the pre-approval process. We wanted to secure a lender before wasting time shopping for homes. We've had a bad run with real estate and we weren't sure if the short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure would haunt us. We preferred this route so there would be no surprises. After all of our ducks were in a row, we received approval a few days later, and then, the hunt began.

We enjoy living in the Silverado Ranch area, so neighboring areas were our top pick. However, we'd consider anything near the airport and/or easy access to the freeway. We were also open to older homes with large lots. We had little interest in homes in master planned developments and preferred lenient HOAs. We were flexible on the size of the house, but the focus was on a killer backyard. A pool and spa were a must! We also wanted privacy. An outdoor kitchen and gas fire pit were on our wish list.

The first half a dozen listings were complete duds. I was discouraged, but this was nothing new. Every time we've shopped for real estate we have seen bottom of the barrel properties before gems presented themselves. I'll never forget the first condos we saw in 2003 with cider block walls, gang graffiti and bullet holes. Or the filth I encountered when shopping for condo in Laughlin - Seriously, disgusting. The bugs had bugs. The homes we saw in 2008 were the pits, completely stripped of anything that wasn't holding the place together.

The second outing was far more promising. There was one house, I had my sights set on for a couple weeks. It took a little bit to schedule a showing. When we finally saw it, we thought it was great. They even had a RZR and Camaro in the garage - c'mon, now?! It ticked all boxes, and it was close to where we are now, but the homes were so close together, it felt like the neighbors could watch our every move. The asking price was a bit high, too, so we kept it in mind, but kept looking. I wasn't expecting the market to be so aggressive, but nice turn key homes were selling within days of being listed. Multiple offers became the norm. Anything on the market for a length of time was either overpriced or it had something bizarre going on.

We saw a great house in Green Valley the day after it was listed. It was beautiful, the kitchen was remodeled, but the bathrooms and laundry room needed updating. The house was in a great school district which would help resale value. Best of all, the backyard was killer. It had a ton of landscaping, it was so lush we'd have to hire a service, but it was private. We decided we'd put in an offer on the spot.

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[photo: realtor.com]

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Of course, the property had multiple offers. I had no interest in a bidding war and that's exactly what it turned into; we withdrew our offer and kept looking. It just wasn't meant to be. I've been stalking the listing on Realtor.com, I'm curious to see what it sold for, I'm guessing at least $25,000 over list, but betting on more.

The Landings

July 14, 2015
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Tucked away on the second floor on the Henderson Executive Airport is the Landings. It's open for breakfast and lunch, and has a bar. This quaint restaurant is serving up solid eats at reasonable prices, with a view. The service is friendly too. It was a welcome change from the long waits, $10+ entrees and spotty service at neighboring breakfast hotspots.



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This is one airport I don't mind eating at.

Dream Home, Dream Car - Switcheroo.

July 13, 2015
This is the one where we nearly bought a house, but got the Camaro instead. A few months ago, we tagged along with our friends while they were house hunting. We were toying with the idea of moving when our lease is up in August. We still enjoy the simplicity of apartment life, but we miss grilling, swimming in our own pool and hot tub. Initially, we didn't see anything that enticed us to purchase a home and we figured we'd rent a house when the time came.

Then, in an afternoon, our plans changed. We found a house by Toll Brothers we just loved. Walking in, I was head over heels in love. We got pricing, looked at lots and gave it a few days to think it over. As each day went by, we were more intrigued. We figured if the lot was still available - there was only one that would do - it was worth a shot. It was and we put down a deposit, we had a week to do our due diligence and if we changed our mind the deposit was fully refundable.

The model we chose was single story with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The huge selling feature was that the house was filled with natural light, because they gave the option of panel doors when most builders only allow teeny windows. The house had a very natural flow to the outdoors. And we are all about outdoor living. The large shower in the master was standard, that also wooed us.

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The house was at the top of our budget, plus we had upgrades and pool installation to consider. I started researching the home building process and I got cold feet. There were so many unknowns, my excitement faded. I know it's not all horror stories, but I generally feel it's best to expect the worst and hope for the best. We haven't had much luck with real estate in the past, so the thought of risking all of our savings made my stomach turn. While I really loved the house, I wasn't sold on the location. It is in the master planned community of Mountain's Edge. It's more restrictive than I'd like to live. Frank and I debated it for days, but in the end we walked away. It was a beautiful house, but we didn't want to be house poor.

Meanwhile, Frank had been seeking an older camaro for months with no luck. He started to look at new models and fell for the 2015 Camaro SS. He had positive equity in the truck so the trade didn't come at a huge expense. Instead of the dream home, he was able to choose a dream car. It's a great ride. He says, "The best he's ever driven!" Previously, he regretted selling the Firebird, but now, it's a distant memory. Sometimes, things work out just as they should. Though, we still need to find a garage to store this beauty.

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Bellagio: Under the Sea

July 10, 2015
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The Difference a Year Makes

July 6, 2015
Last Fourth of July it was me and my mom holed up in my apartment. Exhausted. This time, last year, we were reeling from the news of my mom's cancer diagnoses. She had been sick for so long already, we were grasping for straws as we navigated uncharted territory. In the darkest times, I feared that times together as a family would be nothing more than a memory. But like the stubborn woman she is, she fought through every day giving it her all. She was bound and determined to reach her goal of seeing her granddaughter toddle around. We never imagined receiving the news last month that her cancer was in remission, but the gift has definitely made the days brighter.

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This Fourth of July, nine of us gathered around the table in Pahrump to celebrate America's birthday. But in reality, we were celebrating so much more. After such a hellish year, my heart is so full.

Last weekend, Nicolas flew from Chicago to Vegas solo. He stayed with Frank and I for a couple nights, before staying with his grammy until his mom, dad and sister arrived. They would follow later in the week, since they were driving; Amy and Addy in her car, and Jeff behind the wheel of the moving truck. Yes, moving truck. My sister has moved her family back to Nevada. They are living with my mom until school begins. Nick continues to grow by leaps and bounds. He is 100% boy, but he also has the most kind and caring heart. Addison, barely 10 months, is walking and has two teeth. She adores her big brother more than words can convey. When she sees him, she squeals "Niiikkkkeee!" I promise it would melt anyone's heart.

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Frank kept his tradition of putting on a fantastic firework display. He, along with Jeff and Mike, happily took Nick under their wing. Our family of pyros continues to grow. Blaine over saw the festivities, while my mom, Amy, Addy and I looked on. Well, until the dogs, and Addy had enough... Then, I remained. But I was far from alone.

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