Black Hawk, CO

April 27, 2015
Prior to our departure, we were routinely checking the forecast hoping it would improve. When we booked this trip with our friends, Jake & Alysha; we figured temps in Denver would be in the 60's - we knew it'd be cooler than home, but we never anticipated how cold it actually got. So much for jeans and flip flops - We needed to bundle up. Black Hawk called for a high of 38 and 3-5 inches of snow. The night before our trip I found myself at the outlet mall in search of a warm jacket. I have a beast of coat that kept me warm during Chicago winters, but it weighs like 20lbs - no joke. I didn't want to lug that around. My Vegas winter coat fits too snug when wearing layers and my spring coat that keeps me warm in San Francisco wouldn't cut it. Unfortunately, the outlet mall was geared toward summer, I struck out at Columbia, but did find a long denim coat at Wilson Leather. It would have to do. I'm so glad I had it.

It was cold.

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When we arrived at Denver's airport, the snow had already begun to fall. I had reserved a midsize vehicle, but at the rental counter we upgraded to 4x4 expecting poor conditions in the mountains. Thank goodness we had the foresight to do so. I think 3" fell by the time we checked into our rooms at Ameristar. The snowflakes only grew and fell faster as the day went on; it quickly turned into a winter storm warning. By morning, 15" fell and they had closed roads in and out of Black Hawk/Central City. We were afraid we'd be stuck, but the roads were cleared and reopened in the afternoon. What a relief!

Our stay was great at Ameristar. The accommodations are comfortable. Staff is very friendly. The casino/hotel is non-smoking but there are nice patio with heaters if you care to smoke.

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We made the most of the winter wonderland. We casino hopped, had snowball fights, built snowmen, and took advantage of free play and dining offers at the various casinos. It reminded me a lot of Laughlin; just frigid, instead of sweltering. The casinos were quiet and happy to have us. We earned free dinner buffets at the Monarch and $80 food voucher at Lady Luck. We didn't pay for any food and drinks were $2-$4 at the casino bars. Only catch is that they only serve one drink every thirty minutes. Responsible gaming... yada, yada. You can't bring your drinks to next casino either, even when connected by an indoor walkway. We're so spoiled by Vegas.
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The Buffet at Monarch dinner offerings were pretty good ($18.99 Sunday-Thurs). They serve whole main lobsters, crab and prime rib nightly, since it was Thursday. They also had Pho made to order. I mainly ate crab and created my own crab fried rice. Jake was the one who enjoys lobster so he had quite the spread. Though, we all left satisfied. All we had to do was earn 20 points after signing up for the player's card. Pretty sweet.

We used our dining vouchers ($20 each) at Otis & Henry's at Lady Luck. We had chicken wings, onion rings, quesadilla, two reubens, fajatas and a philly cheese steak. We stuffed ourselves silly trying to spend our full amount. We didn't expect much, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food and service was attentive especially considering they were short handed since many couldn't come in until the roads opened.

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All in all, we had a great time! Frank and Jake enjoyed playing poker, and Alysha and I had a good streak playing blackjack. We made the most of the blizzard. Frank and I were happy we didn't choose to get married there. It was funny enough that we celebrated our first snowversary for our 11th year of marriage. We drove through Central City, but we didn't stop and play. We had enough of the cold and snow by then. I would like to return... in August, perhaps.

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

April 24, 2015
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This month has been a wild ride. Frank and I celebrated our 18th year together and eleven years of marriage. We had a two week visit with my dad, sister, niece and nephew. Almost bought a house, but bought a car instead. Filed taxes... never fun for DINKs (dual income no kids). Flew to Denver, got stuck in a blizzard, saw a killer show at Red Rocks, came back to warmth and a cozy comfy bed, got slammed at work and now? I'm here to tell you about building spring time snowmen. They are far less impressive when built by desert dwellers that do their best to limit their exposure to the cold. I never had "build a snowman in April" on my bucket list. But I've done it, and there's the proof. Enjoy.

Khun Chai Thai Restaurant

April 9, 2015
I love a good lunch special and one of the best around is at Khun Chai. They have a selection of dishes that include soup, salad and eggroll for $6.99. Which is plenty for me, but if you have a large appetite there is another option for $9.99 that has a larger portion.

Previously, this restaurant was Pam Real Thai. I was hooked on their pad kee mao and garlic fried rice. I sulked for weeks when they closed.

Fortunately, Khun Chai puts out one of the better pad kee mao's around. The veggies are always fresh and crisp, the noodles are tender and sop up the delicious flavor and if you like heat - This is the place! Their scale goes 1-5, I like spicy, but I usually stick with a 2 here because I like the sweetness of the basil to shine through the heat. The Tom Yum soup is excellent. The salads are always fresh and you get your choice of dressing, I'm partial to the honey mustard. The eggrolls are always satisfying as well. It's a great place to grab a quick lunch. My brother and I find ourselves there a few times a month. They also offer a discount when paying cash. There is often live music too.

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Wordless Wednesday: A Taste of San Antonio

April 8, 2015
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Prickly Pear Margarita, yum!


They're Here!

April 7, 2015
My favorite kiddos, my sister and my dad are visiting for Spring Break. Addison has grown by leaps and bounds. Her personality has really developed, she's positively adorable and has no fear. She loves to talk and she'll be walking in no time. She already cruises the furniture. She's tiny at only at 7 mos, so it's extra cute. Nick is smarter than ever. He's growing like a weed too. He'll be 5 foot in no time. My sister has been working hard to get her pre-pregnancy body back and she looks great. Having my dad around is an extra special treat. It's been about four years since his last visit. They've been here a week and have a week to go. Last weekend, we invited our friend's kids over too so they could all swim. Pool time before Easter is simply awesome, I wish I was so lucky as a kid. We celebrated Easter at my mom's, it was nice to have the family together. It is so rare. Nick hunted for eggs and the Easter Bunny left them baskets filled with goodies. I'm so happy we have the opportunity to make these memories.

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Mastro's Ocean Room

April 2, 2015
Well, the time has come to tick a new box. Last week, I turned thirty-five. I was torn on where to celebrate, I had a handful of top picks, but the majority have seasonal menus and I wasn't in love with the offerings. Spring staples like peas don't woo me. I narrowed it down to Picasso and Mastro's. I often overlook both despite the rave reviews. Ultimately, I chose Picasso. I'm afraid fine dining will be come a thing of the past as more and more small plates and burger joints take over the strip. So, I want to try all the classics before it's too late. The day of my birthday something else came up and I opted to cancel and reschedule for Sunday. Sunday came along and I screwed up the reservation time and we completely missed our chance. Thankfully, it wasn't too late to secure a reservation at Mastro's.

I've had a number of people recommend Mastro's in cities across the country, it wasn't until recently I realized there was a location right here at home. Oddly enough I was familiar with the space, but never put two and two together. It's the bird's nest, the unmistakable structure in the Crystals.

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We were started with a huge bread basket. All of which was fresh and delicious. I also had the Strawberry Mule ($15), which was a refreshing twist on the moscow mule.

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If I'm being honest, it was the Dungeness Crab Cocktail ($28) that swayed me to try Mastro's. It's my favorite crab and this was scrumptious. All the flavor, but without the fuss. It is served over dry ice so the presentation is rather striking.



With "Ocean Room" in the name I had to try the fish. I was tempted by the halibut on special, but I chose the Chilean Seabass ($49). It was a huge filet, that was moist and flaky. Surprisingly, their turf seems to be just as good as their surf, Frank had the Rack of Lamb ($49) and it was fantastic. I really like that the preparation is simple, just properly seasoned to allow the flavor of the meat to shine. We went for decadence when selecting our sides. I had to try the Alaskan King Crab Black Truffle Gnocchi ($33) and the Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese ($14) piqued Frank's interest. Both were rich, creamy and gooey. The crab in the gnocchi was too delicate for this dish it was overpowered by the creamy sauce and the bold truffle flavor. Both were mighty tasty, however.





We ate until we could eat no more, and there was a bunch leftover. Rarely do we have leftovers to box up, but it seemed like we hadn't even touched our sides. The portions are quite large and will satisfy the heartiest of appetites. We were much too full to attempt dessert. Their famous butter cake will have to wait. Service was attentive; overall, a really great experience. It's nice to have another option for seafood in the desert.

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Wordless Wednesday: Bone Marrow at Searsucker

April 1, 2015
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OK, this deserves one word: Outstanding.


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