March 26, 2008

Gram's Pizzelle Recipe

Gram’s Pizzelles

6 eggs
3 ½ cups of flour
1 ½ cups of sugar
2 tbsp vanilla or anise
1 cup of margarine, melted
4 tsp baking powder

Beat eggs, add sugar gradually. Beat until smooth. Add cooled margarine and vanilla or anise. Sift flour and baking powder. Blend into egg mixture until smooth. Dough will be sticky enough to be dropped by spoon. Bake in Pizzelle Baker (about 30 seconds). Makes 60-80 pizzelles depending on size.

Another year older - Review: Carnevino

Yesterday was my 28th birthday. I slaved away at work all day, but I afterwards I was able to relax at home until Frank got off work. When he arrived, he gave me a big kiss and handed me his suit jacket. Inside was my gift, a pizzelle maker. We got ready for dinner and headed over to the Palazzo. We had a 7 o'clock reservation at Carnevino. They took a minute to prepare the table and then they seated us. The dining area isn't very large, but tables are spaced apart nicely. I really liked that we had personal space, especially since so many restaurants, now, seem to pack in as many tables as possible.

We each ordered an iced tea, and then rosemary focaccia drizzled in olive oil was brought to the table along side butter and lardo. Our waiter forewarned us that the lardo might be a bit salty, but he encouraged us to try it. Next, an amuse bouche of parmesan and gorgonzola cheese puffs were delivered and our waiter answered our questions and shared the specials.

We decided to sample a few dishes and share everything. First, we tried the puffs. Those were better suited for the saltiness warning than the lardo. Then, we snacked on the delicious bread and lardo while we waited for our Caesar salad. Our Caesar was a mix of endive, radicchio, and romaine. It was topped with anchovies and crouton toast. Most restaurants will split a salad for us, but here we were only brought an extra plate. The dressing wasn't too notable, the romaine was wilted and the addition of the endive and radicchio wasn't well received. Neither of us liked the salad much, we hoped it would be the only weak link of the meal.

After a short wait, our entrees and sides were delivered. We had orecchiette with sweet sausage and broccoli rabe. The pasta was delicious, but the sausage was more salty than sweet. The ricotta and egg raviolo in brown butter was singular, the yolk ran out when it was cut into. It reminded me of a sunny side egg wrapped in a crepe. It was alright, but $19 seemed a bit extreme for this dish. We teased that the egg had better be free range and organic. The filet was cooked to perfection, it was very tender and flavorful. Although, the crust was too salty for our taste. We've had better steaks, but the filet was the highlight of this meal.

This was my first encounter with zeppole. It wasn't what I expected. After the first one, I referred to these as carnival potatoes. My thought is that each zeppole has three layers: the salt, much like what you'd find on a soft pretzel; fried dough, like an elephant ear; and the inside is reminiscent of mashed potatoes. I felt the saltiness and fried taste overpowered any hint of parmesan or potato.

The artichokes were grilled and drizzled with olive oil and topped with lime. The lime was much too strong on the pieces at the top. The artichoke at toward the bottom of the dish had only a hint of lime and it was more to our liking.

Dessert was offered, but we passed. A complimentary bite of an Italian energy bar was delivered along with the check. It was nutty with carmel and a strong taste of what I believed to be anise.

Our bill came to $126. Service throughout the meal was good and well timed. Howbeit, when the reservation was made, it was noted that this was a birthday celebration, but it was not recognized during our meal. While that's not pivotal, other restaurants we've dined have gone out of their way to make the experience special. Overall, we weren't too pleased by the food. As you might of guessed, it was just too salty for our liking.

After dinner, we walked over to illy Cafe for an espresso and mint chocolate chip gelato. Then, we drove over to Bellagio. We checked out the new spring exhibit in the conservatory. It's very pretty and it's different than previous years (I'll go back and snap some photos to share). We watched a few fountain shows; we saw all of our favorites, so that really made my night.

All in all, it was a great birthday.

March 25, 2008

An untraditional Easter

We headed out to my mom's house on Sunday. We decided to see how the Jimmy would do over the hump (to Pahrump). She didn't like the mountain pass much, but she made it. We were very relieved. Shortly, after we got to my mom's we went off-roading. First, we drove over the foothills into the mountains that divide NV and CA. We found a great spot for shooting, too. We wished we brought the gun (we bought a Glock 17 on Saturday). After messing around in the foothills, we drove south, where there's a wash. It's rougher ride, the earth is more compact because it's real popular with atv's, quads and dirt bikes. It was a ton of fun and the Jimmy handled it all like a trooper. Regrettably, I left my camera at mom's house by mistake so I don't have any photos of our off-road adventure.

When we got back, I rode my mom's horse, Fancy. I've only rode a pony, so that was interesting. I was real nervous at first, but I got more comfortable with her as I rode. My mom took a short ride. Then, we had dinner. Frank grilled up lamb chops (whole foods), and Omaha steaks (which I got from work). The lamb was real good, but the steaks were a real disappointment. They were no better than what you'd find in a regular grocery store. It certainly wasn't an ordinary Easter, but it sure was fun.

Yep, that's me, ridin' Fancy

And here's the beast

She's 23 years old and there's not a spot of rust to be found. You'd NEVER see that in Chicago.

March 24, 2008

Sedona continued

We drove to route 179 to check out Bell Rock and Chapel of the Holy Cross. First stop was Bell Rock, I didn’t much care to stop there, I have no interest in the vortex (if there is such a thing), but we figured we were there, why not? Well, I don’t know if was the road construction or what, but we didn’t find where to go. There was one parking lot that looked like it offered trails, but the entrance was not Trans Am friendly. We gave up and headed toward the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross was designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright student, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, it was built in 1956 and rises 200 feet from the ground between two large red rock formations.

No services are held here, but it’s intended to provide an ideal setting for spiritual reflection and prayer.

The surrounding views and formations are spectacular!

These flowers had a sign, “Please don’t pick us we’re smiling at God”.

After the chapel, it was around 3 o’clock, we figured it was best to started heading to Flagstaff so we could be home at a decent hour.

The drive from Sedona to Flagstaff is slow-going, but beautiful. The whole way you wind up the mountainside climbing in elevation. We were going about our business enjoying the views, weather and sunshine... then we saw...

Yeah, that’s snow! We couldn’t believe it. We were cruising with the T-tops off and a few feet away there was snow. We pulled over to take pictures and touch the snow.

As we climbed higher and higher it got to be very snowy. We stopped at a rest stop and took more photos. There was a Native American craft fair going on, we picked up a present for Frank’s mom since her birthday was the day before.

As far as we could tell Oak Creek originates here

Shortly after leaving the rest area we saw a sign to watch for Elk. Sure enough we saw a herd. After that, though, there were no more interesting sightings. We took I-40 to Vegas, it’s one boring drive and the roads are in terrible condition. Here’s the sunset about 20 miles from the Hoover Dam

We made it home a little after 7:30. It was a long, but fun-filled day. All in all, it was a great trip, too!

March 17, 2008

Spring Training and on to Sedona


We got a late start so we didn’t do anything prior to the game. Shane’s friend, Wes, was attending the game with us, we left when he arrived. The game was at Peoria Sports Complex about 15 minutes away. It wasn’t too crowded, we were hungry we all decided on the Italian sausage and brat booth. They said the brats weren’t too tasty, but my sausage was good. We took our seats, which were along the third base line in the second row.

Spring Training is a really neat experience it’s much more intimate than a regular game. The players are right there in front of you. We had conversations with Jeff Cox the new third base coach – he’s quite the character; a real good guy.

Here’s Ozzie (the coach) waving as he went by

Stretching and practice before the game

Ozuna signing autographs

Dye signing autographs

Contreas pitching

We lost the game, they were real sloppy… hence spring training… but we saw Contreas get a base hit. It was fun watching for foul balls, and just enjoying baseball.

After the game, we packed up all our stuff, offered our thanks to Shane, and headed to Sedona. I think it was around 4:30 when we got on the road. The drive was nice, we were in awe when we got into Oak Creek at sunset. The rock formations are spectacular; they got us psyched for the next day. We checked in our room at Kokopelli Suites. It was decent, the Jacuzzi was too small for two, the bed is two twin craftmatic adjustable beds. We had fun toying around with those, at least until Frank’s got stuck. Then we only played with my side.

Once we got situated we set out for dinner, we ended up at an Italian restaurant down the street, I think it was named Troja. Frank had veal parmesan and I had chicken cannelloni, both were good. We had tiramisu for dessert. That was yummy, as well.

We crashed not long after we got back to the hotel.


We loaded up the car and decided to have breakfast at L'Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek supposedly, one of the best places to dine in town. We were seated on the sun porch overlooking Oak Creek. Frank had an omelet, with sausage and toast. I had banana nut pancakes with walnut butter. Both were very good, but not worth $38.

From L’Auberge we went to Red Rock State Park.

When we paid admission into the park they failed to mention that many trails were closed because all but one bridge was washed out from floods that Oak Creek had experience this winter (lots of snow in the mountains).

While there, we were able to hike a portion of Kisva trail and Eagle’s Nest Trail (3 orange and 4 blue) if you click here

Along the Kisva trail...

Oak Creek

Washed out bridge

Eagle’s Nest trail meanders around the top of this mountain

Along the Eagle’s Nest trail

That’s Oak Creek and Kisva trail at the bottom left (dead looking trees)

Whew! We made it to the top.

I handled the trail really well, all my treadmill workouts are good for something. Frank was a bit winded when we made it to the top. He sat while I captured the beautiful view.

We were up there...

We made our way back to the visitor’s center and decided to see other sights since so many trails were closed.

more to come...

March 14, 2008

Phoenix road trip: Well, Surprise...

We hit the road on Friday afternoon. I hadn’t been by the Hoover dam in a while, I couldn’t believe the height of the bypass bridge. It will be very nice when it is finally complete.

The drive to Phoenix is gorgeous. It was neat seeing the Saguaro cacti and driving through the Joshua Tree Forest. Many wildflowers were in bloom, too. Weather was nice; we drove with the T-tops off the whole way. We made good time and got into Surprise, where Frank’s friend Shane lives, about 7 o’clock. We unloaded the car, and then headed to Fuddruckers for dinner. It was tasty as always, afterwards we went back to Shane’s house. We got settled, drank some beer and played PS3. They got a good laugh at my terrible gaming skills. I fell asleep on the couch and later moved to the guestroom. Frank and Shane played on.


We had breakfast at Brenda’s Kitchen, a little mom & pop place with good food and great prices. Shortly after we got back to Shane’s, his friend, Scott arrived. We piled into Scott’s truck and set out for our day filled with off-roading and shooting.

Prepping the fire-arms and loading the clips

Me shooting a 9mm Glock

Me shooting a Ruger .45

Video of Frank shooting a clay with a magnum shot gun shell

We had a great time shooting, it was my first time handling anything beside a rifle. I was nervous at first, but by the end I relaxed and actually started to manage nice groupings.

We didn’t do much off-roading because Scott was driving his new truck; needless to say he wasn’t very ballsy.

We returned to Shane’s, Scott went home and I showered while the guys played PS3. We grabbed dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was my first time there, it was pretty tasty. I liked that their “hot” is actually hot.

After dinner we went to Speedworld to race the Trans Am. When we first pulled in a car spun outside of the track. We later found out a Neon raced a Trans Am, the Neon used the first turn out, he took it too fast and side swiped the Trans Am and crashed through the barricade. Frank ran a couple races while Shane and I watched on. He won one and lost another to a supped up Mustang.

Video of the winning race

As Frank made his way back, the owner of a TA (the one the Neon hit) asked Frank if he had a donut. Frank helped the guy out, it took a while, but Shane and I kept occupied watching other races. When Frank finished, I ran two races with him. Both of which he won. We ran one more, and then we went back to Shane’s. We drank beer, shot the shit and watched videos on YouTube. I crashed around 2am, but they continued to play PS3 for a couple more hours.

One down... One to go...

Our Laughlin condo sold! We closed today and it'll record on Monday. We moved our stuff out on Wednesday. It wasn't an easy feat, especially since our first attempt was made on Tuesday.

We rented a trailer and we head down in the Jimmy. We got as far as Henderson (Wagon Wheel Rd.), when I thought I saw dust blowing in the back seat, after a double take I realized it's smoke not dust. Frank pulls over, we get out and notice that the carpet is on fire!

Frank rips the carpet out with a tire iron. We try to determine where it originated from, we think it's the passenger side muffler. As we're pouring water on the floor board and muffler NDOT pulls up. He gives it a look and he thinks oil had leaked on to the mufflers on it started to burn from the heat of the exhaust. Frank mentions that we're on our way to Laughlin and asks if he thinks we'll make it. NDOT says sure I'd try. I'll give you water; douse it if it catches fire. He gives us like 8 bottles of water and we continue on (against my better judgement).

We get outside of Henderson where the turn off for 93/95 is and I tell Frank, I'm going to check on it before we get too far. I throw water on the floor board and it sizzles and smokes like it's ready to fry eggs. We sat and let it cool down. I told Frank I didn't want to try to go any further, even if we got to Laughlin, the truck wasn't going to make it back. Frank called his buddy Shane to see what he thought the issue was, they narrowed it down to the catalytic converter. Shane said, we could go on if Frank poked a hole in it. He tried with the tire iron, but didn't get it. He didn't want to force it and make the repairs even more costly than they'd already be. Then, finally, Frank agreed to turn back.

Every so often, I poured water on the floor board to cool the smolder. It got really really hot so we stopped for dinner at the District at Green Valley Ranch. We tried Lucille's BBQ.

We started with biscuits and apple butter. Mmmm... they were the best biscuits I ever tasted. We ordered the spinach and artichoke cheese dip for our appetizer. It was delicious, too. We both had to restrain ourselves from licking the bowl clean. Next up was our entrees, BBQ tri-tip sandwich with sweet potatoes for me, and Frank had full slab of ribs with sweet corn and baked beans. Lucille's sauces were great, my sandwich was tasty, Frank ribs were the only weak link of the meal. They were decent, but not as good as those served up at Ellis Island (And these were near 3x the cost). Service was great, too. All in all, it was an enjoyable meal. We'll return, but we'll skip the ribs next time.

Luckily, the truck didn't blow up while we ate. It had time to cool, so we headed toward home. I kept an eye on it the whole way, dousing it with water when it got too hot. Fortunately, we made it home safe.

We borrowed my mom's blazer to try again Wednesday, and luckily, our second attempt was a success. We unpacked, yesterday, and set up all the new furniture in our Las Vegas condo. We reduced the condo's asking price when we accepted the Laughlin offer so we're hopeful that it'll sell soon.

March 6, 2008

Good times!

I had a fun-filled time while the family was in town, of course with family (especially mine), drama is a given. And we sure had our fair share, but that’s a story for another day. I got to say I simply adore my nephew. Yep, that's him above. He thought my french doors were the greatest thing ever (Ahh, the things that amuse kids). You can see more of him here. Nicky is Mr. Independent, a complete clown, and he certainly keeps you on your toes. It was nice to have quality time with Mike and Amy, too.

Since Frank had such fun off-roading in Phoenix, he sought after a new toy, he ended up buying an ’85 GMC Jimmy. It is lifted to the point I can barely get into it, but the beast should provide us with many off-road adventures. It’s been in the shop since we bought it, but we’re looking forward to taking it out when it is in tip-top shape.

We got an offer on our Laughlin condo; we’re in final negotiations and we’re hopeful that the deal will close March 15, 2008. It’ll be wonderful when we’re completely done with that chapter in our lives. We’re anxious to move forward and get into a house.

Last weekend, I went to Fremont Street to take photos and enjoy the warm temperatures before a cold front came through. It’s too bad the sky didn’t provide a better back drop and I never realized how many obstructions the properties have, it really makes it challenging to capture a clear shot.

Fremont Street Photo Tour

This weekend we’re going to Peoria, AZ to catch a White Sox spring training game. We’ll be staying a couple nights with Frank’s friend. Plans are in the works for a day of off-roading, shooting guns, followed by a night of racing (the Trans Am) at the racetrack. Sunday we’ll attend the game and then head out to Sedona for the night. We’ll see the sights on Monday and then return home. It should be a fun trip.