New Routines

August 24, 2015
Kids all over the valley started school today. Nick was no exception, it was his first day of the third grade. His new school is just over a mile from our house, and requires uniforms, he was less than thrilled about that, but he's coming around. They're not too strict; it seems solid colors without logos will do. The school goes year round, so that will be a little different, but I think he'll enjoy it. He'll be off for the usual holidays, spring and winter break, plus the months of October and February.

Addison just celebrated her first birthday, she'll be a big sister soon and Nick will be a super big brother. Amy and Jeff will have their hands full, when the baby comes in February. Nick being on break, then, is sure to be helpful.

Now that school has started they will live with us, I have no doubt lots of laughs and chaos will ensue. I gotta say being an aunt to these kiddos is pretty great!

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Everything is Awesome

August 21, 2015
You probably already know that I have a deep love for Dirty Heads. I've seen them live more than any other band. This summer, they're touring with Slightly Stoopid. Last Friday, they performed in Vegas at the Cosmopolitan. I like the venue, but it gets really hot on the pool deck. I practically passed out at Slightly Stoopid two years ago from the heat and humidity. Oh, and the bathroom situation is the pits and drinks are pretty pricey. So, I had a different plan this year. I booked a room at the Cosmo in advance and requested a terrace suite overlooking the Boulevard Pool. I was able to secure a decent rate with a local's discount. They couldn't guarantee the room so it was a bit of a gamble.

The day of the show, I sent Frank to check in early. I figured the rooms were assigned first come, first served and I wanted to secure the view. Upon check-in they still couldn't confirm the room. Instead, they offered an upgrade to the Corner One Bedroom Suite for $200 more plus tax. He took it. It was, by far, the better option. The room typically rents for more than double what we paid.

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The room was fantastic. Two large balconies offer stellar views from the 23rd floor. The accommodations are modern and comfortable. There is a guest bathroom with shower and the en suite bath is impressive with a deep soaking tub and extra large shower. Smoking is allowed on the terrace, Frank was happy to enjoy cigars out there.

I stocked up with beverages at Lee's. I brought ziploc gallon storage bags to store ice. It worked out beautifully. The room has a fridge and freezer drawers. There was no trouble keeping drinks cool.

We invited friend's to join us, ten of us total. I brought Cards Against Humanity to occupy our time before the show began. Once the sun set, you could hear Dirty Heads' sound check. We watched the crowds fill the venue and then it was show time... it was perfect. I'm totally spoiled by the suite experience.

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Frank and I spent the night in the suite and had room service for breakfast. We ordered an omelet and pancakes. Tasty eats and good portion size. Overpriced, of course, but that's room service for you.

Other than Britney staring at me all night - at least, it wasn't Gordon Ramsay - it was an excellent stay.

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Leaving Las Vegas

August 14, 2015
It's official. We have left Las Vegas. I enjoyed living in Paradise, but the time has come to move to the 'burbs. We are now Henderson residents. We closed on our house a couple weeks ago and we are fully moved in. We hired movers this time, with Frank's bad back and my bad ankle & neck, it was money well spent. We possess far more stuff than I ever imagined. We really had quite a bit in our 2 bedroom apartment. We turned over the keys to the apartment earlier this month - No more speed bumps, yay! Even with all our stuff, we've needed to make additional purchases to fill the space we've gained in the house.

We're getting settled. The projects seem never ending and with the easy access to our very own pool it's amazing we get anything done. We're making good progress, though. It's beginning to come together, it's finally feeling like home.

The days whiz by in an instant. I really don't know where time goes. Life has felt like its been on fast-forward. Hopefully, it will slow soon. I'm not ready to say good-bye to summer. I haven't touched my camera since we've moved. So, no house photos yet. We haven't tried any new restaurants either. We've been eating at home most of the time. The perks of having a barbecue. Frank has been whipping us up feasts. You cannot beat the ease of grilling. Clean up is a breeze too.

It'll probably continue to be more quiet than usual around here for a little bit longer, but stay tuned.

Glutton

August 6, 2015
I've been thrilled with the life that's been brought downtown beyond the Fremont Street Canopy. All the new bars and restaurants are such a welcome addition. Glutton is new to the neighborhood, it sits kitty-corner from Eat. We were eager to give it a try. The name speaks to me. We dined for dinner, no reservation and no wait. There were only a few tables occupied on our visit. Cute space. Service was warm and welcoming. Plates are small and intended for sharing. We ordered a few to start and figured we'd delve deeper into the menu as needed.

They have a pretty good beer selection. I'm always pleased when I find Deschuetes Fresh Squeezed IPA ($7). It was a short wait for our first dish, which was the Brown Butter Gnocchi ($16). It was the most hearty of the three ordered. I didn't expect it first, but we didn't mind digging in. The sum of its parts were good, but it fell a bit flat. Underseasoned and the gnocchi were a bit doughy.



We were served the Buffalo Sweetbreads ($12) next. These were flavorful and a playful twist, but it left me wishing the sweetbreads were chicken. The hot sauce was a distraction from everything I love about sweetbreads. The delicate sweet creaminess was completely lost.



The last dish to arrive was the Truffle Gougeres ($8). I was anticipating airy bites with gooey truffle cheese centers. They were gooey, but not so airy and just a hint of truffle was noted. The dough was so bland. It was in desperate need of salt. It was a let down.

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Three strikes and we were out of there. I really wanted to like Glutton. On the surface, it seemed like a winner, but when it came down to execution it missed the mark. I was rather bummed, I had hoped for more. Especially at that price point. It's a shame too, because the menu is intriguing. I hear brunch is good; perhaps, that's the better choice?

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.

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