Grass Be Gone

July 11, 2016
When we decided we were ready to finish the backyard, Frank called several landscapers and contractors for quotes. We had dreams of adding a french door to the kitchen and large slider to the great room that would allow for bringing our indoor living outdoors. It was a bit more than we could chew, so we scaled back the project omitting those items for the time being. We were down to two landscape companies and decided to pull the trigger with one that would complete all work themselves. However, when it came time to signing on the dotted line they went AWOL. They would not answer or return calls and no one was available when we went in person.

Back at square one, we called out Showready Landscape. We had a quote the same day and they started a few days later. To further seal the deal, the business card had a horse on it - my mom loved horses - I couldn't help but take it as a sign that it was meant to be. It took three days to complete. They were timely, accommodating and did great work at a fair price. We were thrilled.

On day one, we also had solar panels installed to heat the pool. Adding the panels has made a huge difference already in our pool season. Jeff and the kids were swimming on St Patrick's day. I need the water temperature to be at least 85 so it took a couple more weeks for me, but I've been in the pool more times than I can count. Since June, the temp has been holding steady at 91. Sounds steamy, right? While it is warm, it feels just right when the mercury rises 110+ or maybe we're all cold water wusses at my house. Whatever the case, I love it.

Day One:

Day Two:




Much better, right? I know we don't miss the grass one bit! The fire pit is great for winding down on cooler nights with a beer (me) and cigar (him). We purchased fire glass from Amazon it was quite a bit cheaper than buying local and they offer a wide variety of colors. We chose blue to mimic the water of the pool and also to pay homage to are favorite television show. Yes, we hide our blue meth in the fire pit. We chose the pavers that were a match to the front of the house, stone surrounding the fire pit was tying into the rock and flagstone surrounding the pool, and the top was to the blend with the pavers and the retaining walls. Frank oversaw the project, I was sick as can be. Those few days were a complete blur. All things considered, I think it came together well. We still need to find a patio set to complete the look. I've been looking all summer; there is one we like, but holy moly, nice sets really do run high. Maybe, we'll snag and end of summer special?

Mi Casa

July 5, 2016
So, this has been home for nearly a year. We liked that it was pretty new, clean and roomy. From the start, we had plans to paint and change the flooring. I thought the first project we'd tackle would be the carpet in the master bathroom. Because, ew! But I am undecided on whether or not I want to remove the carpet in the bedroom too. If I do, I feel like the tile should go throughout the room since there is no door to enter the bathroom. I think I'll pull the trigger on it soon, though. We'll wait until Amy, Jeff and the kids move out before we make changes to the rest of the house. Their rooms are not pictured, nor is their bathroom, I also overlooked taking a photo of the room off the main entrance. I wanted to use it as an office, but we have it set up as a dining room instead. The project we did complete was the backyard, we removed the grass and replaced it with rocks, pavers and added a firepit. We also raised the wall to our only neighbor to maximize privacy. I'll share more about that in another post.

A Glance at the Housing Market

July 1, 2016
This time last year we were house hunting. The market was pretty strong. Plus, there was speculation that rates would be going up in fall so it sparked a bit of a frenzy. Later, this month, we'll have been in our house a year. It just occurred to me that I never shared photos, and back then, I planned to share about our experience with the market. Shortly, after moving in, my world was flipped upside down so yes, it's taken a year to get here, but I try to keep my word... Now, that a year has gone by I can cast some light on the rise and fall of the homes that were in our search.

We searched for homes with a minimum of 3 beds, 2 baths, 2 car garage, pool/hot tub and a killer backyard was a definite perk. During our two years at the apartment we had grown fond of the Silverado Ranch area and sought homes nearby. Though, we were also considering older homes in solid neighborhoods, we were open to fixer-uppers with potential, but mostly wanted something turn-key and preferred single story and fewer rooms. Additionally, we were seeking a low cost, lenient HOA or none at all.

We were pre-qualified for a mortgage before we started looking so it streamlined the shopping experience. We knew our target, but kept an open mind for homes on the high and low end... just in case. We usually knew in minutes of walking in whether it felt right for us or not. Many homes we didn't even bother seeing the second level. Homes moved quickly. There were many that had contingent offers before we could get in to see them. The first half dozen we saw were duds. It wasn't very encouraging, but things improved. We went to contract on a home in Green Valley (89074) it had multiple offers that started a bidding war. We didn't want to participate so we terminated the purchase. I thought the home would've sold for a few thousand over asking price, but when it closed it sold for $100 over. Which happened to be our initial offer. We must not have been the only ones that walked from the deal. Today, that home is estimated at $22,000 less than it sold in July 2015.

Even though apartment rentals have skyrocketed in the past year. It doesn't seem to be the trend for resale home sales. I show nearly twice as many that have values estimated less than what they sold for last summer, compared to those that have risen. Below is a list of homes with the above parameters. I'll list the zipcode. How much over/under list it sold for last summer and the delta of the current estimated value per zillow, as well as, the length of time from list to close.

The following have lost equity (choosing only one from each zipcode for simplicity sake):

89117 +15k,-25k; one month. 89141 +15k, -7k; one month. 89015 +4k,-9k; one month. 89120 +2k, -2k; one month. 89183 -24k,-3k; four months. 89141 -15k,-12k; four months. 89123 -10k, -16k; two months. 89012 -10k,-5k; one month. 89074 n/c, -22k; one month.

Only two had no change:

89147 n/c; one month. 89074 n/c; one month.

And these have gained:

89102 +5k, +39k; one month. 89183 +2k, +5k; one month. 89052 n/c, +1k; one month. 89123 -4k, +2k; two months 89052 -5k, 13k; one month. 89123 -8k, +30k; three months. 89074 -17k, +30k; four months. 89145 -20k, +19k; three months. 89117 -24k, +2k; two months. 89123 -60k +30k; five months.

The big winners seem to be those that were recently flipped or those in need of significant work. I suppose there is some truth when they say to buy the worst house on the best block. Our zipcode in Henderson has had little movement. Homes were selling for asking price last year, closing in 1-2 months, and they have held or gained up to $15,000 in equity. There are a bunch of new homes being built near us, it'll be interesting to see what that does to resale prices. But overall, it seems promising. However, I know better than most that the bubble can burst at any time. That's why when I saw this magnet, I had to have it.

The Very Worst Part of Living with Kids

June 24, 2016
No doubt about it. Hands down! Germs are absolutely the very worst part of living with kids!! I've been sick more this past year than in the last five years. It's crazy! I think they are little incubators breeding, fostering and sharing the strongest and most intense germs known to man. They put everything in their mouths, touch every surface and no matter how much you disinfect, wash your hands, etc. there is no escaping it. Colds, the flu and viruses are just part of life with little ones.

Somehow it seems all that's needed to invite those buggers into our home is making plans. Funny how that works, isn't it? I had big plans for Restaurant Week, I had dinners coordinated with friends, reservations were made, and then it struck... Poor Lexi was the first to show signs, followed by Addy, and then, Frank. By the time, Frank was full blown sick, Lex was so dehydrated she had to be hospitalized. That's when we learned it was Rotovirus. Addy also needed fluids, but she was never admitted. It was bad, bad, bad. Frank was miserable, but heavy doses of Pedialyte kept him from needing medical care. Just when we thought we were on the path to wellness, not even I could escape the inevitable. All the hand washing, scrubbing, bleaching and disinfecting wasn't enough. Nick, Amy and Jeff must have immunity of steel because they were unaffected. The rest of us, though... Man, it was the pits.

Without kids of my own, I've never had to care for kids under the weather. With Amy and Jeff both working, I look after the kids 3-4 nights a week. The two weeks while the virus ran through the house was incredibly challenging. Sick kids are just pitiful. It's the saddest thing to see their spirit drained. You want nothing more than to scoop them up and make them well. Hospitalized babies just split your heart in two. I'm thankful that Lex was able to get the help she needed and only needed to stay for two nights. I know many families aren't so lucky and time in the hospital can be more common than time at home. I cannot imagine what they go through, but thank goodness for pediatric doctors and nurses that work so hard to make them well.

Thirteen Years in Sin City

June 22, 2016
As part of "Reading Week" at a local elementary school. I volunteered to read to a second grade class yesterday. They were very cute and inquisitive. After reading The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales the floor was opened to questions. Most were personal in nature. They were curious about my age, my job, where I worked and how long. They were most impressed that I was not afraid of heights, followed by the length of time at my job - 13 years. "WHOA!" The kids all shouted in unison. Perspective can be a funny thing. I've been at my job for more than a lifetime in their eyes. As for me, it's gone by in a blink of an eye.

The past thirteen years have been a wild ride.

In 2003, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay just opened. Now, it's been rebranded as The Delano. One of the first projects I worked on was Le Reve, which was later renamed the Wynn. I was thrilled that I'd have a hand - however, small - in shaping the future of the strip. Over the years, I watched as the Palazzo, Encore, CityCenter, and Cosmo went from drawings on paper to casting shadows on Las Vegas Blvd. I've seen the Aladdin become Planet Hollywood, Barbary Coast change to Bill's Gambin' Hall and eventually into Cromwell, and the Imperial Palace morph into the Linq. I've seen the dreams of Fontainebleau and Echelon shatter. I've said good-bye to the Frontier, Stardust, Sahara, Riveria, Boardwalk, and Westward Ho. I've most recently worked on Lucky Dragon and the T Mobile Arena. I eagerly await Resorts World and Alon.

Meanwhile, I married. Twenty-something quickly became thirty-something. Bought (and lost on) real estate. I led the way for my mom, brother and sister to also move to Las Vegas. And now, possibly my dad. Frank and I have suffered great sorrow and profound joy. We know sickness and cherish health. Poorer. Richer. We've learned volumes and still know nothing at all. We've traveled to Europe, Central and South America and still have the world to discover. We have dreamed big and continue to dream bigger.

The rest? Is unwritten.

Restaurant Week: Bardot Brasserie

June 10, 2016
On the second day of Restaurant Week, Three Square sent to me

$50 dinner at Bardot Brasserie.

See what I did there? Cheesy right? It feels a bit like Christmas though with all these great restaurants participating this year.

Bardot is one of those restaurants I've been meaning to try since it opened, but for one reason or another it just hasn't panned out. Restaurant Week was the perfect excuse to make it happen. A friend joined us, it was his first visit too. I've been a big fan of Michael Mina for ages it seems (RIP Seablue) and I knew we'd be in for a treat. I was content to order from the $50 selections, but there was an $80 menu offered, as well.

Crusty baguettes and warm salted butter got us started. Wood grilled duck wings with blood orange glaze followed. They sure where sticky, not too meaty, but tangy and tasty. For the main course, the pork chop and the seabass were had. The fish was flaky, light and wonderfully seasoned, served with a simple side of fennel. The chop was bursting with smoke flavor, tender and fit for hearty appetites. The horseradish mashed potatoes were a favorite, they definitely left us wanting more. Alas, we must save room for dessert. The chocolate macaron was sinfully decadent without being overly sweet.

Service was attentive despite it being a packed house. Seriously, every table was full and there were several large groups. I can't recall when I last saw a restaurant so busy mid-week. It was a nice sight. Without question I'd return to Bardot Brasserie. There's so much more of the menu I'd like to explore.

Restaurant Week: Bottiglia

June 7, 2016
It's my favorite time of the year! Restaurant Week is upon us. June 6-17 you can help out the Three Square Food Bank by dining out at participating restaurants. This is the 10th anniversary and there is a wide variety of restaurants to choose from; prices vary from $20-$80. It's the perfect time to try a new restaurant or return to an old favorite.

Last night, we gathered with family at Bottiglia to celebrate a birthday. It's the newest restaurant at Green Valley Ranch, it may be tucked inside a local's casino but it has all the flair of a strip experience. The restaurant is stunning, it is light, airy and oozes charm. It has a lovely patio too. We were asked if patio dining was okay, but even with misters, 105+ was a bit too warm to be comfortable. We preferred a table inside; we were quickly accommodated.

Service was sluggish and maybe that's due to the restaurant being so new? But it started slow and failed to improve throughout the course of the meal. Fortunately, the food was very good. Everyone is our party opted for the Restaurant Week Menu. $40 was rewarded with your choice of arancini or chopped salad, followed by choice of halibut, chicken parm or pappardelle bolognese, and tiramisu for dessert. We also ordered a pitcher of the Red Sangria ($40) which was rather heavy on ice.

Both appetizers went over well. I chose the arancini and it was scrumptious. Delightfully cheesy, perfect crunch and the risotto was just right. Bravo. The entrees were also a success. The chicken parm was massive. The halibut was a nice sized portion as well. By this point, we wondered about a bread basket. Since there is no pasta served with the parm, it would've been a nice accompaniment. It was never offered, but we did have bread plates since the start of the meal. An oversight, perhaps? Dessert was the weakest link and it felt a bit chintzy served in a disposable goblet. It felt very disjointed since everything else had such pretty presentation.

Bottiglia is a great addition to GVR and in time, I believe they will achieve a better level of service. It struck me as being most ideal for a night out with the girls. Additionally, they offer a happy hour (M-F 5-7pm) that looks enticing. Once the weather turns a bit cooler, I have no doubt the patio will be a hotspot!

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