July 29, 2008

Review: Maggiano's

We were undecided on last night's dinner. Frank had a taste for veal parmesan and I had a $25 GC for Maggiano's so that settled it. We drove over to Fashion Show Mall and parked in their garage (which is one of the worst around), it must be the worst smelling. No clue what’s rotting down there, but it’s rancid. Just what you want to smell before grabbing a bite. Yum! They try to rid the elevator of the stench by arming it with three air fresheners. Ah, a citrusy rot. Even better. Anyway, we made our way thru the maze from the back of the restaurant to the front hostess. Of course, I grabbed a handful of mints along the way. They’re just too good to pass up.

We were seated right away; we had a table beside the window over looking Wynn and the FSM escalator. The folks riding that escalator were our entertainment throughout our meal; Interesting people watching to say the least. We got started with fresh warm bread. M’mmm. I love when the breads pulls away from the air pockets. It was delicious, their vinegar and oil are tasty, too. Next up was a house salad, it was fresh and crisp, it tasted like it was straight from the garden – simple and perfect. Frank got the veal parmesan, I ordered a "Little Italy" special. Taylor Street (from Chicago), it was baked ziti with sausage. Frank's $22 veal came without pasta. We didn't realize it was al a carte, to make matters worse it was more breading than veal. Needless to say, it didn’t settle his craving. The ziti was decent, although, the sausage was salty and tasted nothing like what I’ve had in Chicago's Little Italy. We’ve had a couple good meals there before (family-style and lunch), but we’re less likely to return after yesterday’s dinner.

July 28, 2008

Last Comic Standing, etc.

Friday, we had dinner with Jake and Alicia at Paris’ Buffet before the taping of The Last Comic Standing. The buffet is nowhere near as good as it used to be. It was still decent but definitely not worth $53/per couple. Oh well. We needed something quick, I suppose it did the trick. Went to the theater to be seated, and we learned the four tickets weren't near each other; two were on one side of theater, two on the other. Both were near the cameras. We tried to get them to switch our seats so we could all be together, but no dice.

We weren't familiar with any of the contestants since we haven't seen the show, but you could tell who the audience favorites were. Bill Bellamy was hilarious. I didn't like his side kick. She was pretty full of herself and she couldn't walk in her shoes. It was pretty amusing. The first comedian was our favorite, his name was Marcus. Jeff and Iliza were good, too. We’re a bit twisted because we found humor in the eliminations. We were seated near the stage exit so we had front row seats for the walk of shame. There were 8 comedians, 3 were sent home. After the taping, we grabbed drinks at Paris' lounge in the casino. Overpriced drinks, lame lounge act, but it was fun feeling like a tourist. We had fun people watching, but we had our fill around midnight.

The rest of the weekend was pretty routine. We caught a couple movies: X-Files and The Dark Knight. X-Files was a huge disappointment (bad, bad, bad) and The Dark Knight was better than expected. However, I hate MPAA ratings. The film is violent, but since it is PG-13 there wasn’t a drop of blood, and apparently dogs are only capable of visible bodily harm. Also, the movie dragged toward the end. Even so, it was one of the better movies released this year.

Yesterday, I made the mistake of allowing Frank to convince me to lie on the pool float under the mid-afternoon sun. I was reluctant, but he said it was very relaxing. I knew I could burn to a crisp so I told him no more than 10 minutes and he swore he'd keep me in the shade. It was very relaxing. I could've lounged there all day. I thought I was wise by limiting my time, but evidently, I cook faster than I imagined. By the end of the night, I was bright pink from my neck to my ankles. Even my poor boobs are fried. I wonder how many new freckles will spring up? Today, my bra is driving me bonkers, my tummy is itchy and my jeans are terribly uncomfortable. Just another reminder that I love the sun, but it doesn’t love me. The irony here is that I purchased a new 70 SPF sunblock on Saturday. I finished off my old bottle of 50 SPF on my face, arms and shoulders. I figured that would suffice since the rest of me would be in the water. Yeah, not so bright.

July 25, 2008

Non-Gaming Total Rewards

Harrah’s will launch Non-Gaming Total Rewards on August 12, 2008. The program will finally acknowledge and reward guests that have been overlooked thus far. Today, instead of gaming, many people spend their hard earned cash on spas, golf, shows, shopping, clubbing, drinking, and dining. Soon it will be possible to earn Diamond status without ever dropping a dime in the casino. All you need to do is sign up for a Total Rewards Players Card, if you already have an account, be sure to share your number at check-in or check-out. Charge all expenses at Harrah’s properties to your room and your account will be credited accordingly within two weeks. If you won’t be staying at a Harrah’s property you’ll need to show your Total Rewards card when you make your purchases. You earn one point for every dollar spent. Every five dollars spent earns one tier credit. The points and tiers are earned and redeemed just like they always have been for Total Rewards. To really make the most of it, charge your balance to your Harrah’s credit card and earn two times points. It really is a great loyalty program, I hope MGM/Mirage follows suit.

July 24, 2008

Restaurant Week

September also brings tasty eating opportunities. Restaurant Week returns September 1-7, there's a longer list of participating establishments this year compared to last.

I'm interested in Aureole, Panevino, Capital Grill, and Vitner Grill.

These last few are on my "to dine" list, but I'd like to see what menus are put together for this event. Bradley Ogden, Daniel Boulud, Rao's and Mesa Grill.

I'll have Frank look over the menus, hopefully, we can narrow down a couple to try.

Good TV is near!

In a little over six weeks we’ll find ourselves in September which means good TV will finally roll out. To say I’m excited is an understatement.

The Shield 9/2
Entourage 9/7
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 9/18
Californication 9/28
Dexter 9/28


July 22, 2008

Weekends are never long enough

And we never get everything we set out to do accomplished. It never fails.

This weekend I took Monday off in hopes of getting items on the to-do list completed. There was a brief moment we considered staying a night at the Signature, but those plans were nixed due to higher than average rates and use of better spending judgement. Frank was the voice of reason, despite having freed up money from the Criss Angel tickets he reminded me that we have slew of bills to pay. So, the money could be better spent. Once I got past the visions of banana walnut French toast dancing in my head, I agreed.

Friday and Saturday were pretty low key. I ran my errands and cleaned house. Frank got rear-ended by a stripper on his way into work. The Monte Carlo only suffered a few scratches, but the stripper's Mercedes was pretty beat up. Frank said she was still in her work clothes, shimmering with glitter and wreaking like coconut. No, she didn’t offer a free dance for the trouble. Meanwhile, I got my car smogged, renewed registration on my Impala, and reluctantly parted with $330 to do so. We took the Trans Am out for a cruise on Saturday night. It’s been tucked away in the garage quite a bit lately, so it was fun to get out for a ride.

Sunday, Frank made me French toast. It’s the next best thing to the Signature’s, so I enjoyed it immensely. We wasted away the day doing little projects around the house and swimming. Clouds covered the sky all day, temperatures were cool, below 90 most of the day. Too bad it was too humid to enjoy the relief from the heat. We had our first rain shower at the house. It lasted about five minutes, so it wasn’t really notable. Dinner was at Nobhill.

After dinner, I suggested that we go to Bellagio. I wanted to see the conservatory. Frank agreed, but he said he didn't wait to stay for fountain shows because it was humid and he was in pants. No problem, I was most interested in the current display. The train theme is back again this year, although, we felt it wasn't executed as well as in years past.

It didn't help matters that the hotel was crawling with people. It was wall-to-wall chaos. MGM was packed, too. Valet wouldn't even take our car; they were limiting it to hotel guests. Unreal, considering all the doom and gloom that fills the news. Supposedly, Vegas is dead and we're in a recession. I guess someone forgot to fill in the thousands of folks who filled the casinos Sunday night.

Anyway, we headed home from Bellagio. We went for a swim and then spent the rest of the night in the spa. We drank a couple pitchers of margaritas, it was a great night. Funny tidbit, around 3am Frank turned off the tv and turned over to go to sleep only to be awakened minutes later from a noise coming from down stairs. He grabbed the Glock and prowled down the stairs and went from room to room asking who was there. No one answered. He heard the noise again. The culprit was our bala shark digging in the rocks.

Monday, we brought the Jimmy in to get the exhaust fixed. Did that, then Frank noticed an issue with the brakes so we dropped it off at the other repair shop to have those looked at. We grabbed lunch at Fuddruckers. Then we walked over to the Mad Hatter Cupcakes and got a half dozen of tasty treats. We hit the pool when we got home and spent the rest of the day between the pool and landscaping. The yard is really coming along, although, I’ve come to the realization it will never be complete, instead it’ll be a constant work in progress.

Per usual the weekend went by way too fast even with an extra day. Over dinner, Frank and I commented that weekends are NEVER long enough. I mentioned to him that I think we should take a week off and stay home, especially since it doesn't look like Mexico will pan out this year - airfare is just ridiculous. I spooked him, because he had the same thought at that moment. We're tossing around the idea of taking off the first week of August.

Review: Nobhill

Dinner Sunday was good, just not as great as our first time at Nobhill. The restaurant has booths between the bar and main dining room. We sat there last time, it was quiet and intimate. This time we were in the main dining room. They seated us across from a table that was dining with kids, three total, all under five, one needed a stroller. Why on earth would you bring kids to Nobhill? They were fairly well behaved, but they did stare us down, ran around the chairs, nearly took out the waiter two or three times, and pushed the stroller around the table to amuse themselves.

It was the summer tasting menu that brought us back to Nobhill, we had our choice of three appetizers, entrees, and two desserts. All for $60 per person.

Frank ordered fondue, bacon wrapped berkshire pork loin and creme brulee. I had the hors d'oeuvres sampler, chicken tetrazzini, and strawberry salad. A selection of breads: olive, honey wheat walnut, sourdough, and flavored butters: sweet cream, spice and ginger started us off and we also had a complimentary tasting of mashed potatoes: sage, sour cream and onion, horseradish, butter, and sundried tomato.

The fondue was just as good as last time. We wanted more. Although, the single serving cooks too hot, the cheese started to burn. We had to grab the attention of the waiter to kill the flame. My sampler included crab truffles, beef skewers and duck confit summer rolls. The crab truffles were overshadowed by the other selections, they were simply delicious.

Frank's pork loin was served with honey glazed pork belly and a salad of mushrooms and carrots. The pork was smoky and tender. The pork belly reminded us of a mix of ham and bacon. It was too fatty for our tastes, but the flavor was good.

My tetrazzini was cooked to perfection, it was buttery, tender and very moist. We agreed that we liked it better than the pork loin. It was accompanied by truffled mac and cheese. The mushrooms were tasty and the flavor was tasted in every bite.

The creme brulee was decent. Neither of us our big fans, Frank took a few bites, I ate a bit more. Frank ordered a cappuccino, he said it was fantastic, one of the best he's had. My strawberry salad was excellent. It was comprised of candied fennel, pistachio streusel and topped with Creme Fraiche Sorbet. Fresh and light, a perfect summer dessert.

This meal was only a fraction of the cost of our first meal there, it turn, it seems we received only a fraction of the experience. Service was great to start, but it slacked off during dessert and we waited several minutes for our check. Next time we dine at Nobhill, I will surely remember to request a booth when I make reservations.

July 18, 2008

Sweetest words

Yesterday I received a call from my sister. My nephew, Nicky, had something special to tell me. He got on the line and said Hiiiii, Kellllllee. It melted my heart. Nicky's speech is really developing, and he's gaining a larger vocabulary. My sister's been working with him to teach him to say aunt Kellee and Gram. My mom received a special call, as well. It really brightened our day. Amy would like to make another trip out here before Nicky turns two in November. I hope they do. I miss him so and I'm sure he's grown a bunch.

July 17, 2008

Fuddruckers is a hit!

We met our friends there around 6:30, we were the first to arrive. We couldn't believe all the cars, then, we caught a glimpse of the line out the door. Shortly after we walked up 6 people left. Shorter wait for us, score! The owner came out with water while we waited and girls walked around with cookies for us to snack on. The wait wasn't bad, we got in line at 6:24, we ordered, and we were seated by 6:54. The owner went by every table to see how everyone was. Nice guy. We told him we didn't think they'd ever open. Evidently, we weren't the only circling, hundreds of others have been awaiting the opening, as well. We asked if they anticipated it to be this busy. He said we expected good crowds, but since they held off advertising until next month they never dreamed it would be as packed as it was. From 11am on they had a line out the door. They had a good operation going, only mishap is they ran out of ice. He said he had two 500lb orders delivered that day and another on the way, sure enough, ice was there within 5 minutes of running out. This location is the first to open of twelve. The next one scheduled to open will be inside the Orleans Casino. I work less than two minutes from there, so it'll be a great lunch spot.

Our meal was everything you'd expect from Fuddruckers. Everything was fresh and cooked to order. Service was good, quick and friendly. The Fuddruckers team did great under pressure on the first day. We can't wait to go back.

July 16, 2008

Good eats ahead

Today is Fuddruckers’ Day! The old adage “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone” sure rings true. We had Fuddruckers in Chicago and we ate there a couple times a year. The location nearby closed a couple years before we moved to Vegas. Then we had a long dry spell, until we came upon a Fuddruckers while we were visiting Anaheim, CA. Ever since, we check locations before we make a road trip so we can enjoy a cheap tasty burger and some of the best buns ever, alongside jalapeno cheese fries. We last indulged, in March, when we visited Phoenix.

I can’t recall when I heard that Fuddruckers was opening a Las Vegas location, but I do know it was one of the slowest construction projects I’ve witnessed. You’d think NDOT was behind it. Anyway, today, it finally opens its doors. We'll meet our friends Chris and Melody there for dinner tonight. I hope it’s worth the wait.

This morning, I made reservations for Nobhill at MGM. We’ve dined there once before and we had an exceptional meal. We’ve been anxious to get back, although tighter spending budgets have kept us away. However, when I caught wind of MGM’s summer menus I told Frank we’d have to splurge. I have no doubt we’ll be in for a treat Sunday night.

Also, Criss Angel’s show Believe has been delayed; it’ll now open in October instead of September. The preview tickets I purchased are no longer valid and we were issued a credit. That frees up $250 so I think we may stay at the Signature Sunday night, as well. I can taste the banana-nut French toast, from room service, already. Scrumptious!

July 14, 2008

A lazy weekend

The monsoons were present this weekend. Lightning lit up the sky Friday and Saturday night, but we didn’t get a drop of rain at the house. Sunday afternoon dark storm clouds blanketed the sky, but it only delivered about 10 drops of rain, just enough to mess my windshield while we shopped for groceries.

We had a fairly lazy, but nice weekend. On Friday, we went by Fuddrucker’s to check on construction progress, much to our surprise it appreared to be open. Had we not just chowed down at Buffalo Wild Wings we would’ve stopped in for a burger. We decided we'd stop by on Saturday.

Saturday, Frank took the day off from work. It was overcast, cooler, but humid. We decided to take the Jimmy out to Paradise Hills in Henderson and out to the dry lake bed. We hoped to play in mud. We beelined straight for the lake bed, but it was dry as a bone. There was a storm across the highway, we parked and waited for it to get to us. It never came, instead, the sky cleared and the sun came out. We hit the trails and drove up a mountain to shoot the guns.

This is the way up

This is the view

I haven't been shooting since Memorial day weekend. It took me a couple practice clips to gain control of my aim. Frank set up a target on an empty 5-gal water jug we found in the desert. He got a bulls eye on his turn. I did, too, once I got my aim down. We were both pleased. It was hot and humid, and I ended up getting sunburnt up there. We had a lot of fun, though. We drove back home via the trails around Paradise Hills. We hopped in the pool the minute we got home. We had the best time swimming and being silly. We laughed and laughed. My cheeks hurt. Hunger struck. It was Fuddrucker's time. We drove over, and to our dismay they don't open until Wednesday. The employees were training. Such a tease! We went to Amore instead. We ordered chicago-style dogs and a pizza. Good stuff. While enjoying our dinner, another diner, an old woman, had a seizure. 911 was ridiculous, they played 20 questions rather than just sending help. It took 10 minutes for the first medic to arrive on site, from when the call was first made. Poor response time. Luckily, the woman regained consciousness and it seemed like all would be ok.

We caught a couple movies over the weekend, Wanted and Hancock. Both had great potential and then veered off track and tanked. It’s been way too long since we saw a great movie. Sometimes I wonder why we even bother. It seems there's no end to the crap in sight; the previews for upcoming movies look absolutely terrible.

Sunday I threw together the marinade for Souvlaki. We grilled it up for lunch. It was juicy, tender, and it had great flavor. I'll definitely make it again.

INGREDIENTS Makes 12 servings as noted
• 1 lemon, juiced
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed
• 4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
• 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
• 2 green bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
• skewers

1. In a large glass bowl, mix together lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, oregano, and garlic; add pork, onions, and green peppers, and stir to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
2. Preheat grill for medium-high heat. Thread pork, peppers, and onions onto skewers.
3. Lightly oil grate. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or to desired doneness, turning skewers frequently for even cooking.

July 11, 2008

Monsoon Season

Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again. Clouds and humidity rolled in yesterday afternoon. Blech! I don’t mind the heat, but humidity, I can’t stand. The next month is going to be rough. It’s my least favorite time of the year, next to the month of cold and rain we see in the winter. Two bad months out of twelve, I really can’t complain. Well, I can. And I do. But I shouldn’t. I know it can be far worse. What can I say? I’m spoiled. I like my days of warmth and sunshine, and four-to-five months of near perfect temperatures.

The monsoons bring in lower temps, but you sweat like crazy and it’s hot as balls… thanks to the humidity. It turns the dry heat into a moist heat. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty. The only brightside to monsoons is that it’s the one time a year where we see true storms, with lightning and thunder. I hate rain, but I love a good storm. So, if wet stuff falls from the sky it better be accompanied by a good light and sound show. The forecast is calling for storms Saturday and Sunday. Of course, that means it’ll probably be sunny and hot. If it does rain, chances are we’ll take the Jimmy out muddin’ this weekend, too. That’ll be a blast. And we won’t have Delores up our ass this time, either. Although, it’d be tempting to ride by the condo to check things out, and leave a few chunks of mud for Delores to remember us by.

July 9, 2008

Family history

A few posts back, I mentioned that my mom bought home a bunch of my grandma's photos. I've scanned them all and figured I'd share a few. Ok, more than a few...

This is my great grandfather, Harry. When he was a child he came to America from Sweden by boat.

He was an electrical contractor, he also enjoyed carpentry in his spare time. Most of our family's prized possessions were made by his hands. He owned a electronics store for many years.

My great grandmother was the first in the Chicago area to have a princess phone.

They had three daughters, Betty (second from the left), Lois (last on the right) and Harriett (center). My great grandmother is the first on the left.

My grandma, Harriett, is the youngest.

She befriended Trixie and chose to runaway with her when her parents said that she couldn't keep her. They returned home, and Trixie became part of the family.

My grandma excelled in school and actively played bridge and other card games. As young woman she married Thomas. They had five children, Tom, Jeff, Jack, Lee and Patti.

This is the only photo I've seen of my grandpa, he passed away when my mom was two. He's having fun with Tom here, his eldest son.

My mom and aunt Lee

My uncle Tom

My uncle Jack and aunt cindy (highschool sweethearts, still married today)

My uncle Jeff and the one that got away. He's never married.

When the kids were grown, my grandma remarried.

My aunt lee

My mom and her cousin

After they wed, my grandma and Gordon moved to Black River Falls, WI. Tom, Jack, Lee and Patti later married and kids. My grandma had eight grandkids and two great grandkids when she passed away.

I'm three here

Growing up, all I wanted was a brother and sister. By the time I was nine, both wishes came true. Mike came along when I was seven, Amy followed two years later.

Christmas 1989

Here's my brother at age four

And my sister at age two

It's fun to look back. It's a reminder of how precious life is and quickly it passes by. For example, my brother will celebrate his 21st birthday on Sunday. I've watched him grow, but it doesn't seem possible, it feels like yesterday I was bouncing off the walls with excitement because I would finally be a big sister. And the thought of my sister's son turning two in four short months, just boggles my mind. At least, as years pass, I gain more fond memories to cherish.

July 7, 2008

Latest house slideshow

Gotta love long weekends

I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday. We sure did, we invited a few friends over for dinner and drinks to celebrate. By the way, we successfully perfected the margarita on Thursday night, so we indulged in a pitcher to kick off the night. Frank fired up the grill; we cooked bone-in ribeyes, garlic bread and corn on the cob. Delicious!! We sat around the spa, drinking beers and smoking cigars to pass time until darkness blanketed the sky. Then we went around the front of the house to light a few fireworks. We were pleased to see that the neighbors lined the street and we’re in the midst of their own show. Now, we have big plans for next year!

See, the 4th is Frank’s favorite holiday and my second next to Christmas. We haven’t properly celebrated in over five years. We couldn’t light fireworks at the condo and my mom did want us to do them by her for fear of scaring the animals. Next year, though, the show is on! Aerials and mortars are some of his favorites; Frank’s already planning to drop a dime.

Back to this year, it was getting later so we piled into our cars and headed for Red Rock. We parked on the mountainside near Far Hills and the 215. From our vantage point we saw fireworks all over the valley. Once Stations got their displays underway we could see Red Rock to our right, Green Valley Ranch straight ahead, Sunset Station to the left and Texas and Santa Fe were behind us. The 9-minute show was pretty good, although, we agreed it would’ve been better had they done one major display rather than several smaller ones. We returned home, lit more fireworks, drank a few beers and relaxed in the spa. Our first time entertaining was a success, everyone had an enjoyable time.

On Saturday, Frank and I drove out to Pahrump to see their firework display and visit with my mom and Blaine. We had dinner at Terrible’s prime rib buffet before the show. It is the best buffet in town, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Luckily, Pahrump does firework shows a whole lot better than they do food. The display got underway at 9:15 and didn’t end until 9:38. The show was awesome and they had the greatest and brightest finale I can remember. It was excellent. They had great song choices, too, and it was well synchronized.

The rest of the weekend was filled with time in the pool and spa. In between, we did more yard work. Most of the trees are now trimmed and pruned. Our palms look clean and manicured. Everything is really coming together.

July 2, 2008

Perfecting the Margarita

Yeah, we’re going to need a lot of practice. It turns out we don’t make very good bartenders. I suppose with free cocktails and 24/7 bars there’s little need to hone those skills. However, we wanted to mix margaritas to drink at home, poolside, well spaside. We like Cadillac Margaritas, so I looked for recipes online. Majority called for Tequila (Patron is king in my book), Grand Marnier and Cointreau with a shot of lime. I stopped at Terrible’s Liquors inside the Orleans after work. Then, I headed home with my goodie bag of booze.

After dinner (by the way, honey teriyaki beef kebabs from Whole Foods rock) and a few chores we were ready to relax. We set up a mini-bar and Frank got busy mixing and shaking. He poured the mixture over ice and we were good to go. Cheers!

Ooohwe!!! That was some strong shit. Orange flavor overpowered lime and the liquor was fierce. We tried to water it down with ice and more lime juice, but it tasted like shots straight up, instead of a Margarita. Frank had added an extra shot of Cointreau. In hindsight, it certainly was necessary. Even with the proper ratio, it’d be a strong-ass drink. I think it may need sweet and sour mix. I’m going to pick some up and we’ll give it another whirl. Hopefully, attempt two will be a success because a margarita sounds damn tasty.