December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Another year is nearly behind us. What a year it's been! It's been filled with triumphs and challenges, but that's life for you.

I hope everyone has a safe holiday and a fabulous New Year!

I'll wrap up 2008 with this quiz that's been floating around.

1) What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
Learned to shoot and enjoy off-roading

2) Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I like goals better than resolutions, in 2008, our goal was to buy a house. And we did. Next year’s goal is to pay down debt.

3) Did anyone close to you give birth?
A friend in Chicago, but I haven’t met Lina yet. Seen lots of pics, though.

4) Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, my grandma.

5) What countries did you visit?
None, we stayed in the US this year.

6) What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
less stress from financial concerns… damn, condos and layoffs.

7) What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? April 26, I flew in Mike, Amy and Nicky to surprise my mom for her 50th birthday.

8) What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Buying our dream home

9) What was your biggest failure?
Gaining weight, after keeping it off last year.

10) Did you suffer illness or injury?
No! thank goodness.

11) What was the best thing you bought?
Our house

12) Whose behavior merited celebration?
Frank’s, he helped me keep things in perspective.

13) Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The media

14) Where did most of your money go?
Paying double mortgages and the Jimmy.

15) What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Buying our house and when my sister, nephew, brother, and brother-in-law visited. And restaurant week, can’t forget that one.

16) What song will always remind you of 2008?
All Summer Long by Kid Rock

17) Compared to this time last year, are you:- happier or sadder? Happier, but a bit more stressed - thinner or fatter? Fatter, unfortunately - richer or poorer? Poorer.

18) What do you wish you'd done more of?

19) What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worry and use credit cards

20) How will you be spending New Year?
Not sure exactly, but we’ll watch the fireworks and I’m certain there will be time spent in the hot tub.

21) Did you fall in love in 2008?
I did, with Frank over and over again. Mushy, I know.

22) How many one-night stands?
Marriage gets in the way of those.

23) What was your favorite TV program?
The usual, original series on Showtime, HBO and FX, but this year I discovered Mad Men. Let’s go with that.

24) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? No person specifically, just hate the condition of the housing market.

25) What was the best book you read?
Can you believe I didn’t read any books this year? Sad, I know.

26) What was your greatest musical discovery?
That most new music still sucks.

27) What did you want and get?
Our house and an elliptical

28) What did you want and not get?
Our condo to sell

29) What was your favorite film of this year?
Not sure, but Tropic Thunder, Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were among the best that come to mind.

30) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
28, we had dinner at Carnevino and went to Bellagio to watch the fountains and check out the spring display.

31) What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Selling the condo

32) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Whatever fits.

33) What kept you sane?
Frank and hope

34) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Kirby from Lipstick Jungle

35) What political issue stirred you the most?

36) Who did you miss?
Mike, Amy and Nicky.

37) Who was the best new person you met?
Jake and Alysha

38) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:
Real Estate is not a safe investment. Hell, it’s not even an investment. Not that I’ve experienced, anyway.

39) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
I can't complain but sometimes I still do
Life's been good to me so far – Joe Walsh

Sides and after dinner treats

From baking

Toffee Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ c firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups English toffee bits
1 ¾ cups pecans, chopped
6 oz chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets, apply non-stick cooking spray if necessary.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars at medium-high until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Beat in vanilla. At a low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing until blended. Use a wooden spoon to stir in pecan, toffee chips and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, space cookies 2 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, 14 to 16 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown. Let the cooking cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

From baking

Mint Snowball Cookies

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
10 oz mint chocolate chips or M&M’s

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Combine 1 cup of sugar and oil in another bowl. Mix well. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, until blended. Stir in mint chips or M&M’s. Shape into balls and roll into remaining sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

From baking

I posted the recipe for Oreo Truffles before. I melted Ghiradelli chocolate chips for mine, white and semi-sweet. They were a huge hit, especially the ones dipped in white chocolate, but those didn't last long enough for a photo.

That's all for the treats. Now for the sides I tried. Neither were great, but both turned out. Beer bread was easy as can be, but we didn't care for the flavor and the bread was really dense. Next up is Pasta Fagioli I followed the recipe for the most part, but I subbed kidney beans, added celery and carrots, and used chicken stock in lieu of water. Frank wasn't thrilled by it, he only had one bowl, but I've eaten for lunch each day this week.

December 30, 2008

Random thoughts

So I planned to share recipes today, but I forgot them at home. Ah well, tomorrow, maybe?

Surprisingly, we caught another good movie last night. Two in one week, imagine that! We saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It reminded me of a blend of Forrest Gump and Titanic, but with an original twist.

Southwest is running 50% off fares to/from Las Vegas. Purchase December 30 through December 31, 2008, midnight pacific standard time. Travel January 13 through March 11, 2009. Travel valid all days of the week.

The deal was too good to pass up, I booked a trip to Chicago over Valentine's weekend. It'll be good to see the family and eat yummy treats. Thanksgiving 2007 was the last time I was there.

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and I still have no clue what we're doing. Frank might be working all day and night, but he won't know until sometime tomorrow. My mom might come by, but she doesn't want to make the trip if we plan to stay home. It's all up in the air.

By the way, where did 2008 go? It flew by, didn't it?

I'm happy to report warmth has finally returned to the Vegas Valley. 56 degrees is our high today, it should hang around for the next 10 days or so. It's a welcomed change.

December 29, 2008

Owed photos

From Bob's collection:

Then, the following day, I was able to join them for more off-roading fun. We checked out trails off of Fort Apache. Looking out toward Henderson.

From Cave Trail
and the strip

From Cave Trail
From Cave Trail

One of the trails leads to this cave.

From Cave Trail

From Cave Trail
We found a good place to shoot

From Cave Trail

From Cave Trail
We continued on the trails until we realized we had a flat. Frank said, let's drive up a little further until the trail straightens out... We never could have imagined coming across a slab of concrete in the middle of the desert, but we did.

From Cave Trail

A rock must have punctured the sidewall. We have a terrible history with flats, the gods were shining on us this day, a change has never been easier. We were back on the trail in no time. Our last stop was a retention basin where we had a load of fun cruising through the water. It didn't take long to dirty the new tire.
From Cave Trail

A Quiet Christmas

We had a nice holiday. Christmas eve, we had my mom and Blaine over for dinner. I made an untraditional dinner, but it was delicious. We had parmesan salad, smoked gouda stuffed pork chops, my grandma's potatoes and cornbread casserole. It would've only been better with some greens, but mom doesn't eat them, so I didn't bother. We finished with snow tunnel cake for dessert.

We played cards and spent the rest of the night in the hot tub.

Frank worked Christmas day, but I took my mom and Blaine to see Encore. We also went to Bellagio to see the Christmas Display.

My mom and Blaine, later, stayed downtown at the Plaza to play tourist. Frank's uncle came by, we visited for a bit, and exchanged gifts. He headed home, then Frank and I left to go to the Orleans, we had Fuddruckers for dinner and then caught a movie. We saw Slumdog Millionaire. It was very good, it's not often we see something worth mentioning.

It was nice to have a long weekend. I really enjoyed it. I cleaned and did laundry as usual, but I also shopped the clearance sales, put away christmas decorations, baked and scraped the fruit off the kitchen windows.
From House photos

So long fruit!
From House photos

Now, I only have the peacock next to the front doors to remove. I have another long weekend coming up for the New Year. Maybe I'll tackle the peacock then.

December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope all of your holidays are filled with love, laughter, plenty of good eats and sweet treats. The photo above was taken by Bob, my brother-in-law, last Friday. He and Frank went off-roading near Red Rock. Beautiful, isn't it?

Encore Opening

Monday we stayed at Treasure Island. We received a promo that allowed us to book for $49/night. We've been meaning to stay there for ages, finally we got a rate that was too good to pass up. We tried to upgrade to suite, but none were available. Instead, we had a room on the 25th floor. It was nice, the bed was especially comfortable.

From TI

From TI

From TI

From TI

From TI

We had dinner at Venetian's Grand Lux. You can never go wrong Buffalo Chicken Rolls, A Wedge salad, or Chicken Parmesan. It was delicious, as always. We watched the Bears win, but we lost our bet. We had the Bears and the over. Encore opened it's doors to the public at 8pm. We headed over thru Wynn at after 9pm. There was a long line to enter Encore, Frank showed security our Red Card and they let us through. Encore was very crowded. It was tough to find an open slot or video poker machine. Bars were three people deep. Table games were packed. The $100 craps game had a ton of action. We checked out all the areas that were open. We couldn't get back to see Sinatra, since a private event was being held in the restaurant. The property is beautiful, especially the gardens and natural light. There are butterflies everywhere, the mosaic ones in the floor are gorgeous. Tomorrow, I plan to head over and give it another look without all the crowds. I took photos, but excuse the quality, it was tough to get good shots while keeping up with the flow of the crowds.

December 22, 2008

Most of the snow has melted

We're due for more precipitation this afternoon, but thankfully, temperatures have warmed up and we should not see snow fall in the valley. Chances are the mountains will get a nice dusting. Which I'm totally good with, I love snow - from a distance - the snow covered mountains are just beautiful to see.

We had a great weekend. Frank and Bob went off-roading on Friday, they went to Potato Ridge in Red Rock and by Trail 9 between Summerlin and the town of Blue Diamond. They encountered about 8" of snow and came across a number of snowmen, even a snow frog. Bob made snow angels. He took pictures, I told him he has to share them with me when he gets home.

Saturday, I was able to go off-roading with them. We hit trails near the house. Most of the snow had melted. It wasn't a very clear day, but I managed to get some shots of snow covered mountains out toward Henderson. My photos didn't upload properly so I'll have to share those later. We found caves, we played in the wash and did some shooting. It wasn't all fun and games, though. We also got a flat tire, a rock scraped up against the side wall. Shockingly, we found a slab of concrete in the middle of the desert that made the changing of the tire fairly easy. It was a bit of a miracle.

Saturday night we had dinner at Japonais inside Mirage. Dinner was tasty. We had eel and avocado, and shrimp and salmon maki to start. Then, Bob had tuna for an entree, Frank had duck and I had shrimp and scallop skewers. We also had sides of truffle potato puree and broccolini in butter and lime. All was great, except the broccolini. We all agreed mine version (I made it the night before) is better. After dinner, we made football bets at TI. My pick of the week was the Titans. I let Frank convince me to bet a money line parlay with the Patriots, Houston and the Jets, instead of a straight up bet. I was kicking myself once I realized that it was the final home game for Seahawks coach (Houston was a bad call, too). Fortunately, Frank's parlay card came in, said and done we made $5.

Sunday was all about football. We hosted a party. Served munchies and pulled pork sandwiches for lunch. And Oreo Truffles for dessert. The white chocolate ones were a bigger hit than the chocolate. I used chips instead of baking chocolate. After the games we had dinner at Amore. Then, we went bowling at Southpoint. I have my own ball, at one point Bob asked how long I've had it. My initial reaction was not long, but then I thought about it, it was a Christmas gift from Frank about 9 years ago. How'd that happen? Time sure does sneak up on you.

All in all, it was a fun visit. Bob is currently on his way back to Louisville.

Frank and I will be checking out the opening of Encore tonight and we'll be staying at Treasure Island. It should be a good time.

December 19, 2008

A fantastic meal is a great start to any trip

Bob's flight got in at 5:20, almost an hour delay. Not too bad considering McCarran closed the day before. We went to the house from the airport. When we arrived, Bob immediately grabbed a handful of snow. He's never touched Vegas snow before. We gave him the tour, then played Nertz to kill time until dinner. At seven o'clock, we headed over to Palazzo (it's much easier to park there than at Venetian). We were seated right away for our 7:30 reservation at Delmonico.

Warm, light, yeasty bread got us started. Then, an amuse bouche of shrimp salad on a crostini was delivered. Next, Bob selected lobster fritters and I chose butternut squash ravioli with duck confit and hazelnuts in a brown butter sauce for shared appetizers. The fritters melted in my mouth, they were delicious. A lobster dish I actually enjoyed.

We hadn't even gotten to the Caesar salad and we were already giddy with delight. We split the tableside Caesar for two, three ways, there was plenty to go around. It was excellent as always.

Entrees followed, spicy shrimp and andouille fettuccine for Bob, bone in ribeye and twice baked potato for Frank and I chose the special, petite filet and rosemary shrimp with blue cheese smashed potatoes and wild mushroom reduction. Fantastic.

We were much too full for dessert, but Frank and Bob had a few cups of Jamaica Blue Mountain french press coffee. The perfect end to a fabulous meal. As always, service was exceptional.

We returned home and played Nertz, while the hot tub heated. Bob and Frank went out for a soak and I reluctantly went up to bed. I wished I didn't have to work in the morning. Ah well, there's more fun to be had this weekend.

December 18, 2008

More snow in the desert

I'd swear I was having flashbacks to winter commutes in Chicago on my drive home yesterday... only they were real and I was in Las Vegas. Blizzard like conditions, everything was covered in white. The major difference was there was also flooding. Oddest thing I've ever seen, I tell ya. Once I finally got home, a couple trees were down from the weight of the snow. I couldn't get into my drive way because my trees hung too low. I had to shake them to remove snow. My poor palms practically touched the ground. They couldn't stand up to the wet snow.

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

All flights were grounded yesterday, fortunately McCarran reopened this morning, Bob's due in at 4:30 today. He picked a great time to escape the cold, heh. Clark County school have a snow day. But otherwise it's business as usual in this winter wonderland. The phones at work have been ringing off the hook, everyone seems to have roof leaks. Snow is great for business, who knew? The news was reporting that this is the most snow the valley has seen since 1979. It's wild that so many people likely have never experienced anything like this before.

December 17, 2008

What's for dinner?

I'm behind in sharing dinner recipes I've tried out so I thought I'd do one big post to cover them all.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, I used a 3 lb pork shoulder, a can and a half of diet root beer, I set the slow cooker on low and let it cook for 9.5 hours. I drained it, shredded it and added Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce to taste. I served it on potato buns. The pulled pork sandwiches were really good and they couldn't be easier to prepare.

Best Chicken Ever, I reduced the butter and used light sour cream, but otherwise followed the recipe. It was hardly the best ever, but it was decent. Doubtful that I'd make it again, if I did, though, I'd add additional spice. The chicken was pretty bland.

Creamy Pasta with Tomato, Bacon and Ricotta, I used green pepper and followed the recipe. I tasted the sauce as it reduced, I think I would've preferred to leave out the ricotta. Frank agreed, I'll try it again sometime without it.

Pork Chops stuffed with Smoked Gouda and Bacon, I've shared this one before. However, now that the weather has turned cooler, I tried them in the oven at 375 degrees. They turned out even better than on the grill. It's currently my favorite dish to make.

Spicy Garlicky Spaghetti Squash, this was a new one for me. I've never had spaghetti squash before, never even heard of it, until I came across the blog post. It came out pretty well. We thought it was fine, but didn't like it enough to make it a keeper.

Mexican Rice, I followed the recipe mostly, however, I used canned tomato, boxed reduced sodium chicken stock and I left the rib of the jalapenos. It was great, but hot, and we like heat. Next time, I leave out the ribs as suggested.

The last two recipes were shared by friends.

Wendy's Nacho Chicken Bake

4 chicken breasts
1/2 c chunky salsa (I make my own)
1/4 c light sour cream
crushed tortilla chips
1/2 c light shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Slice three slits into each breast, top with sour cream, salsa and tortilla chips. Bake 20 minutes, add cheese and bake another 10 minutes.

It was very tasty, I made the Mexican Rice to go with it. It was a great meal.

Johnny's Eggplant Parmesan

1 eggplant
2 eggs
2 cans of tomato sauce (Contadima)
Scant of milk
Parmigiana cheese
Italian breadcrumbs (Progresso)
Extra virgin olive oil
Slices of Provolone or Mozzarella

Mixture of the following: garlic salt, dried parsley, oregano, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and parmigiana cheese.

Cut eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. Put paper towels down and put eggplant on towels and sprinkle some salt on eggplant and then put something heavy on the eggplant to press out the bitter juice in the eggplant.

Beat 2 eggs and a small amount of milk in a bowl. Next spread breadcrumbs over a paper plate. Dip sliced eggplant in to egg mix then press both sides in the bread crumbs and put on plate.

When all done put extra virgin olive oil in large frying pan about 1/16 inch deep, med heat. Brown both sides. Season eggplant after first turn with spice mixture.

Layer fried eggplant into a casserole dish, then add one can of tomato sauce, sprinkle more parmigiana cheese and then some thin slices of cheese. Add another layer of eggplant, followed by another can of sauce and more cheese. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

I've never had eggplant parmesan before, so I had no basis for comparison. We liked it, though, Frank would like me to make it again.

December 16, 2008

Anticipating the return of good tv

Saying farewell to good tv is bittersweet. I’d much rather see a favorite show end before it jumps the shark, but I still hate to see them go. We freshly had to part ways with Vic Mackey and the rest of the gang at the barn. It’s is shame to have one less great series in a sea of trite and predicable television shows.

Fortunately, there are still a handful of series out there that are well-written, directed and/or acted. We recently wrapped up seasons of Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Californication, Dexter, and Entourage and Mad Men drew to a close not long ago. We weren’t disappointed. I’ve got to say Dexter was especially great this season. I thought season two was weak, but they made up for it in season three. If they could only off Deb, all would be right. She’s just awful. I won’t offer any spoilers; I know many wait for episodes on DVD.

The holidays always bring a hiatus of sorts to tv land, and this year’s no different. Our dvr gets a vacation the next couple weeks. But then, we’re back in business come the New Year.

Nip/Tuck’s new season premieres January 6th.

Big Love and Flight of the Concords return on January 18th.

United States of Tara premieres January 18th; it’s the new comer I’m most looking forward to watching.

Then this spring two of my absolute favorite shows will finally be back, Curb your Enthusiasm and Rescue Me.

Snow in the desert

Areas of Summerlin had quite a bit of accumulation. Kids made snowmen and had snowball fights. Even by my house, Frank said the neighborhood kids were playing in the snow. The ground was covered when I got home. I thought it would've melted by then. The mountains looked spectacular this morning covered in snow. I wished I had my camera with me on my drive into work. Here are some photos Frank took at the house yesterday when the snow really started to fall.

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

From Snow

December 15, 2008

It's snowing!

Frank confirmed we have big snowflakes falling at the house. I told him to take pictures. Sheesh! Another year of snow. Haven't went a single year without seeing it. I thought when I moved to the desert, snow would be a thing of rare occurrence, but for the last five years, we've had a dusting. At least it melts quickly.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

...and feel like it, too. It was a chilly weekend and Saturday we had ridiculously wicked winds. Today's no better, we've already reached our high of 40. I've already watched the mercury drop a few degrees. The sky is blanketed in what I know to be snow clouds. You can barely make out the mountains. It reminds me of a winter day in Chicago when I look outside. My mom called to tell me it's snowing in Pahrump, her yard is covered, it's the most accumulation she's had there. I've heard flakes were falling in Summerlin. I live close to where they were reported so I bet there's been flurries at my place. My office is near the strip, it's only rained here, so far. It's only been a couple days and I'm already ready for the cold to clear out, but I won't get reprieve anytime soon. 40's are forecasted the rest of the week.

It figures, a couple weeks ago, I was bragging to Bob, my brother-in-law, about our warm weather. He flies in from Louisville on Thursday afternoon. He'll stay with us until Monday, it looks like we might see the 50's by the end of his visit.

I'm happy to report, I've finished all of my holiday shopping and Christmas cards are in the mail. This week I need to get a box together to be shipped to family in Chicago. Then, I'm pretty well set. I'm not sure what our plans will be this year. I'm working Christmas Eve, but I'll be off the following two days. Frank is off Christmas Eve, but works everyday after until the 29th. My mom's still off due to her injured back. I imagine we'll get together, we'll likely head out to her place after I get off work Christmas Eve.

I have ingredients for all kinds of cookies and other sweet treats. I'm anxious to try new recipes, but I haven't had the time to bake. I've tried a few new dinner recipes, I'll have to share those.

December 11, 2008

Wishing I could rewind

Too bad life wasn't more like a DVR. I wish I could fast forward through the tedious chores and routines, and then rewind to relive special times and moments. Particulary, times like this...

Frank and I spent two wonderful and much needed nights relaxing at the Signature at MGM Grand. Sadly, there was no annual trip for us to Mexico this year, but the Signature did wonders to fill that void. We’ve stayed there a few times before, but this was our first time staying two nights and booking thru Luxury Suites International (they offered suites at $89/night with a two night minimum).

Frank had to work Sunday, I dropped him off; returned home, packed and waited until 3 o’clock neared. I checked in, our suite was located in Tower 3, on the 15th floor.

The room was no different than those we’ve had before, but the view offered a different perspective since previous stays were on higher floors in Tower 2.

From Signature

From Signature

From Signature

From Signature

Service was top-notch, no waiting at valet or check-in, even my bags were delivered in record time. I got situated, and waited for Frank to arrive. He took the monorail over from work; the $5 ride was pricey, albeit quick and convenient.

I greeted him at the door, happy vacation! Let the fun begin. He settled in, we lounged about and napped. Frank dozed a bit longer than me, I had to wake him so we could make our 7:30 reservation at Craftsteak. We got dressed, and headed over to MGM.

Even though, we had a reservation, the hostess tried to seat us in the bar dining area. We mentioned we preferred the main dining room; she took us back to the podium, after a short wait we were led to our table. Service from then on was very good; we never had an empty glass and dishes rolled out without delay. We each selected the fall tasting menu ($75) and we opted to have the wine pairings ($30) which were complimentary for locals (a promotion running through the end of the month).

They started us off with a Chardonnay and six buns in a small pan. The bread was alright, it was topped with salt and a bit dry. The first course was lobster bisque; it was rich, with large chunks of lobster. It was likely the most tender lobster I’ve had, but I still thought it was chewy. It seems I have not acquired a taste for lobster. I always try it when given the opportunity, but I haven’t found a dish I’ve liked yet. Frank had a few more bites than me before we placed it aside to dig into the next sampling – Caesar salad, roasted red pepper and prosciutto. We agreed that the salad was pretty weak, at least the romaine leaves were crisp. The latter two were excellent; we especially enjoyed the prosciutto, it melted in our mouths.

The next wine was Cabernet Sauvignon; it was the first red we enjoyed. The main course included Kobe sirloin, Angus skirt steak, Diver sea scallops, sweet potato puree, Jerusalem artichokes, and sautéed spinach. The scallops and the sweet potato puree were the standout dishes. We were really disappointed by the Kobe sirloin, the flavor was good, but the cuts were tough. The first few pieces I had were tougher than the skirt steak. The skirt steak was better than we expected, tender and we liked the marinade. Frank didn’t care for the Jerusalem artichokes or spinach, I thought they were so-so.

Dessert was the final course, paired with a Moscato wine. The first selection was molten lava cake and espresso gelato. The cake was fair, but I loved the espresso gelato. It was fantastic. The other selection was vanilla ice cream and mixed fruit crisp. It was delicious.

Overall, our second Craftsteak experience was better than the first. We’ve had years in between visits, I noticed the regular menu had been completely redone. Still we failed to see what warrants the praises the restaurant receives. There are too many other steakhouses that offer better tasting quality meats and more creative menus. We don't believe Craftsteak deserves a third chance. We have no intentions to return.

We were desperate to walk around after dinner. We rarely have alcohol with a meal so to leave a restaurant buzzed and stuffed, it was a weird feeling. Frank threw $20 into a quarter slot that caught his eye. He doubled his money, he moved on to the next slot, he doubled it again and this continued until he turned that original $20 into $190. With that dinner was paid for and we went back to the room. No reason to jeopardize his good fortune. We hopped in the tub, relaxed and had a fun filled night. Feeling completely and utterly content, we crashed listening to the jazz channel.

Monday, Frank was up before me. I laid in bed and enjoyed the view while he showered. I started my day with a bubble bath, and watched TV while I soaked. I showered, and then returned to bed to find Frank sleeping. I was flipping channels when Frank muttered something about breakfast; he picked up the phone and placed our order. I answered the door, and told the gentleman there was no need to set up the meal, just leave it and go. We had a nice breakfast overlooking the strip. Frank had a ham & cheese omelet and I had French toast. I wanted banana French toast, but Frank didn’t specify when he placed the order. It was tasty, but not too filling. We lounged in bed the rest of the morning. Sometime, after noon, we dressed and wandered over to MGM.

We stopped at CBS studios and watched a show and gave our opinion. It’s nice to way to kill sometime. We got coupons for their store and other outlets in the food court. After that we made our way to the casino.

We played video poker at the bar. Frank hit 4-of-kind for $100 before I got my money in the machine so we took his winnings and walked away. He played a few slots and he was winning, he decided to try his luck with dollar slots. He kept on winning. He was up to $200 in no time. We sat down at a $5 blackjack table. We both got killed. Back to slots. He won back what we lost at the tables. We gambled more, he won, and I lost, all at the dollar level. We never play dollar slots or video poker so we felt like high rollers. We were even, and hungry so we thought we grab a bite at Diego but the restaurant was closed (it’ll reopen 12/19/08). We ended up grabbing lunch at Delights, the café inside the Signature. We split a turkey sandwich, broccoli cheddar soup and a bag of chips. We spent far too long away from the bed, so we had to correct that. We decided to order a movie. We saw most movies on the list, but we missed Pineapple Express in theaters so we ordered that. There was no sound so we had to call engineering up to the room. We had to get dressed, I was a bit annoyed. Frank apologized. It was a quick and simple fix. We undressed and climbed back into bed. We watched the movie; I dozed off in the middle. What I saw of it, I thought it was terrible. Frank said I missed nothing and it was bad. We relaxed until our dinner reservation at Fiamma neared. Before we headed down, we opened up a bottle of champagne I brought along. We each had a glass; we let the bottle chill on ice, and we left for Fiamma.

We were seated right away. We practically had the restaurant to ourselves. The crowds really thinned out from Sunday to Monday, only handfuls of cowboys remained. Service was prompt and friendly. Again, we opted to have the fall tasting menu ($49) and complimentary wine pairings ($30) for locals.

The first wine was a Prosecco, Frank and I really liked it. I could’ve drunk that all night. We got started with heavily seasoned pita bread soaked in olive oil. It was really tasty. For the first course, Frank selected calamari. It was tender and buttery. It was excellent. I had Carpaccio, it too, was delicious. But I wanted more of Frank’s calamari. It was just too good.

Next, we were given a glass of Chianti. We had it before, but didn’t care for it. This, however, was much better tasting. I liked it, but Frank still wasn’t fond of it. Entrees were Short Rib Ravioli and Linguini with Prawns. Each was delicious, but we really enjoyed the linguini. Frank regretted not ordering it for himself. It was beautifully prepared, a great blend of rich and smoky flavors, and the pasta was cooked to perfection.

Dessert was tiramisu and a selection of sorbets, paired with Moscato wine. The tiramisu was very good, but the sorbets were just awful. Neither of us liked the flavors – blood orange, cranberry and another deep red variety. Little pumpkin tarts were also delivered with the bill. Aside from the sorbets, everything was fantastic. We’re considering returning before the month’s end.

After dinner, we gambled a bit more. I continued to lose; Frank played his winnings so we’d end up even. It was fun playing at the dollar level. It made the thought of winning even more exciting.

We stopped at Haagen Dazs on the way back to our room. That was a tasty treat. I also ran into the CBS store, used my coupon to buy some SpongeBob stuff to send to my nephew for Christmas.

We lounged in bed, drank champagne and enjoyed the lights twinkle outside the window. We talked about how fabulous this stay has been and how we dreaded it ending. Eventually, I dozed off. I think Frank was right behind me. Winds were crazy strong overnight. I woke up a couple times from hearing the wind howl.

By Tuesday morning, the strong winds cleared out the clouds. Finally, there were sunny crisp blue skies out the window.

From Signature

From Signature

From Signature

From Signature

It was wild to look out at all those buildings, most weren’t there, including the one I was standing in, when we first visited in 1997. After staring in awe for a bit, I started my day the same as the day before, with a soak in the tub followed by a shower. Frank woke shortly afterwards, he did the same as I, while I packed our belongings. Sadly, our time at the Signature was nearly up. We ordered room service again, this time we specified banana French toast. When the food arrived we quickly noticed the French toast was no different than the day before. They no longer have the banana French toast; we had an old room service menu. I wish they would’ve mentioned that when the order was placed, I would not have ordered it again. Breakfast was still good, although, I admit, I was a bit disappointed I'm going to miss the banana French toast. As we finished up breakfast there was a knock at the door, it was 11 o’clock and they were ready to turn the room over. We told them to give us a few minutes and we’d be on our way. We headed out for the last time, picked our car up at valet and headed home. It was a fabulous getaway. It was our best stay, yet. I’m not sure when we can get back there, but I know it’s not soon enough.

December 10, 2008

Review: Golden Greek Restaurant

We had a great stay at the Signature. I'm going to make you wait for those details, but in the meantime I'll leave you with this...

We were undecided on what to have for dinner last night. We needed to grab a bite before heading over to our friend's house. We passed by the Golden Greek (formerly Romy's Cafe) at Sahara and Durango. We've been meaning to try it for sometime, it's been months since we've had a gyro, it was an easy choice at that point. When we arrived we were warned that a large party would be dining shortly so space was limited. No problem. We looked over the menu and selected saganaki to start, followed by the gyro plate and souvlaki. Both were served with green beans, rice and greek fries.

The food was excellent, the bill was $45. It was the most authentic Greek food we've come across in Vegas. However, we still haven't gotten around to Opa! for comparison. Service was good at first, but tapered off as the staff got distracted by the large group. Even so we won't hesistate to return.

December 3, 2008

Playing catch up

My week off flew by, it felt like a long weekend, not nine days away from the florescent lights, keyboard, phone calls, and paperwork.

My first two days off were spent painting trim and doors; the bedroom and bathroom downstairs are now fully complete. I also replaced all the gold hardware with brushed nickel. It’s a welcomed improvement. I cannot wait until every gold fixture is phased out of the house.

The next few days we spent in Laughlin. We came home Wednesday, but most of the day was spent juggling vehicles. We picked up the Jimmy from the Trans repair shop across town. We ran to Jiffy Lube to pick up my car, the collision shop did a good job with repairs. I was happy. It’s practically as good as new; it would be if my interior still smelled like new car instead of glue. The local Enterprise location was closed by the time we got my car, they’d remain closed until Friday, so we opted to return the Nitro to the Rental Car Facility near McCarran. Between the running around and rainy weather it was a complete waste of a day. At least we topped it off by relaxing in the hot tub. I swear that’s a cure all…

Thursday, I cleaned and cooked, while Frank watched football. It was my first attempt at cooking a turkey. I’m happy to report it was a success. It was moist and flavorful. Wish I could say the same for my mashed potatoes and stuffing (or dressing, since I don’t put it in the bird). The flavor of the stuffing was dead on, but the texture was off. Last year, I made it at my sister’s for her thanksgiving feast and it came out fine. Not sure what the deal was. I don’t think I let the potatoes cook long enough; the texture was way off there, too. Overall, we had a nice meal. My mom stayed with us the next couple nights.

We hit a few stores on Black Friday. My greatest finds were at Home Depot. The sales seemed pretty weak this year. There wasn’t much that I was interested in. Frank and I trimmed the palms in the backyard, and the rest of the day and Saturday we spent quality time with my mom. She injured her back in Oct; she’s been out of work and stuck at home. She appreciated the company and the change of scenery.

Sunday was my last day off, I spent it cleaning house, doing laundry, decorating for Christmas and I cleaned out the garage. Frank watched football. We capped the night off with dinner at Stratta.

I really thought I’d get more done and have some down time, but that didn’t happen. It would have been really tough to go back to work this week if I didn’t have our staycation at the Signature next week to look forward to.

December 1, 2008


Last week it rained for two days straight. We had the wettest Thanksgiving Day on record. It was very dreary, and a bit chilly. It was nice to see the sun again on Friday. By Sunday, temperatures warmed up, our high was 71. Not bad for November 30. The 70's hang around through tomorrow. I told Frank the lingering warmth is a birthday gift from Mother Nature. I met him on my lunch break, he loved cruising with the windows down, wearing shorts, and sandals. It's the warmest birthday he's ever had. He's 29 today, hard to believe since it seems like yesterday he turned 18. Time sure does fly.

To celebrate we had dinner at Stratta inside Wynn, last night. We ate there twice before during restaurant week, but this was our first time ordering off the menu. We started with bread and pesto, followed by fried artichokes. Yum! Frank ordered veal parmesan with pasta and a side of asparagus. I had seared scallops and a side of broccolini. Both were great! They have the best desserts in town, so we couldn't resist. Frank got tiramisu and a cappuccino, they had a birthday candle for him to blow out. I had chocolate toffee cake. Heavenly! After dinner he gambled a bit since he had free play at Wynn. No wins, though.


Is a lot more fun as tourist than as a resident.

We headed down on Monday. We stopped at Lucille's BBQ in Henderson on the way. We drove by the old condo, the blinds I hung are still there. The complex hasn't changed a bit. After the drive through town, we checked into the Colorado Belle. Rooms were no different. Nothing special, but you can't beat it at $9/night. The casino had minor changes, like a complete conversion to TITO; it was less dusty, too. We casino hopped, bet on MNF, and spent most of the night at Riverside. We watched the game at the bar, drank beers, and played keno. We had dinner at Casa Serrano. It was tasty as always. We wrapped up the night with more blackjack and video poker. I couldn't win, but luckily Frank won enough to cover my losses.

Tuesday we had the breakfast buffet ($8 for two). Frank played poker, I played keno, then we hit the outlet mall. We bought a few things before seeing Role Models at the theater there. It was funny, we enjoyed it. If it weren't for one guy we could've had the theater to ourselves. We drove over to Arizona to see what had changed in Bullhead City. They opened a few new stores and places to eat. We had mexican again for lunch. We went back to the hotel, killed a few hours in the room. We went to Golden Nugget we gambled before dinner at Salt Grass. We played video poker, after I won some cash on penny slots. I lost my $20, Frank was still playing, he won $100 on a 4-of-a-kind. I dug out five quarters from my purse and dropped them in the machine. I was dealt two Aces and a pair. I went to hold them, but Frank stopped me and said only hold the aces. I did and....

this popped up
From Laughlin win

I won $213.50!!!!!!!

That's my biggest win in years! I was very excited. It took a long time for me to cash out since it wasn't ticket in/ticket out, but I didn't mind. We had dinner at Salt Grass. We weren't terribly hungry so we just ordered appetizers and Frank had a salad. We saw the comedy show at River Palms afterwards. Tickets were $14 and we had a 2-for-1. Can't beat that. The show was funny, but not in the traditional sense. The main act kept getting crickets, it was painfully funny. We enjoyed ourselves. We finished up the night playing blackjack at Colorado Belle.

Wednesday, we had breakfast at the buffet again. Played another session of blackjack and then left for Harrah's. Frank wanted to pop in to say hello. We hung around there a while and then headed home.

I've since spent the 13.50, but I still have two $100 crisp bills in my wallet. I plan to save them until next week for our stay at the Signature. Hopefully, they'll bring me luck at MGM. Frank broke even for the trip. It was great to go home winners. We had a good time in Laughlin. It was nice to be tourists again.