Pop-Tarts…

May 30, 2008
When is the last time you had them? And did you know it would be the last? This was the subject on the local morning radio show on my way into work today. I haven’t had a Pop-tart since high school. I used to eat them or dry Fruit Loops for breakfast each morning outside my locker. Crumbs would fall and I’d regularly host a family of ants – nice, huh? I used to wash down my breakfast of champions with clear watermelon Kool-Aid or a diet pop.

Lunches often consisted of Cheetos and a Whatchamacallit. Some days I’d opt for the chewy fruity goodness of Mamba.

To make matters worse, when I’d get home, Doritos were my snack of choice. I’d scarf down half a bag in one sitting without any effort. Nutty bars were another favorite. Matt’s Cookies or Soft Batch were other weaknesses.

Most dinners that my mom prepared were beef or pork roasts because my dad didn’t consider poultry or fish to be meat. Sides were always corn and potatoes. I’d cap my nights off with dessert -- a whopping bowl of cookie dough ice cream. Amazing that I was able to stay slim, especially since I never participated in sports and my effort level in gym was minimal. Ahhh... If I could only have that metabolism back.

These days, I have to keep a balance of healthy meals and splurges, and exercise four times a week so I can keep my ass in a size four. I haven’t had a single Cheeto or Dorito in a couple years, I think I’d gag from the sweetness of Kool-aid, and I can’t imagine starting my day with a Pop-tart. I realized somewhere between here and there, I grew up. Funny how age sneaks up on you, but with age comes wisdom. I can now appreciate brussels sprouts, asparagus, lamb, duck, fish and all kinds of things I never imagined I’d enjoy. I wonder what else I’ll discover with age.

One week

May 28, 2008
Only seven days to go until our scheduled closing. I’m doubtful it will record that day so we have the movers set for Friday, June 6th to allow a couple days leeway. I wasn’t aware that they will be packing and unpacking our belongings, we’re only responsible for personal items and chemicals. Nice relocation perk! Although, it’ll spoil me; I’ll never want to move the old fashioned way again. Our final walk-thru is scheduled for this Sunday morning. So, we’re cooking right along...

A long overdue, long weekend…

May 27, 2008
We kicked off my long weekend with dinner Friday night at Amore; my mom’s treat. Minestrone soup and pizza really hit the spot. My mom headed home and Frank and I had a quiet night.

Saturday, I cleaned house, did laundry and got started packing. I whipped up stroganoff for dinner and we stayed in. We played a game of Uno while it rained buckets outside. Hard to believe days before temps soared to 107 and this weekend we had near record lows and scattered storms. Felt like I was back in Chicago for a bit there.

Sunday afternoon we took the Jimmy out. We went to the Paradise Hills trails which we've done before, but this time we went over the mountain to the dry lake bed on the other side.


Those power lines were snap cracklin' poppin' like you wouldn't believe.

Frank scoping out the trail ahead.



We parked and pulled out the guns. On our way out, we stopped at Wal-Mart to buy golf balls. Frank busted those out and shot them with the shot gun. He didn't get many good drives; he thinks he needs more powerful ammo. We fired a few clips from the Glock. Then, I tried to launch clay pigeons with the EZ-thrower. EZ my ass. I could not get the hang of it, its Kellee proof, I swear. At least, it provided Frank with a good laugh. Fortunately, I was able to successfully throw the clays by hand. Afterwards, we packed up and made our way over the mountains to the dry lake bed.



We drove around forever looking for water. It dries up so quickly in the desert. We came across a puddle of mud, Frank played in it until it dried up.





He managed to kick up a little mud



We drove around and found the lowest part of the lake bed. Not much water was on the surface, but you could tell the water table was high. Ruts from previous visitors were filled with water. We played in those and got muddier.




I was amazed how muddy the truck got considering the lack of water/mud. It'll be an absolute blast, immediately following a rain, when there's large puddles and mud to plow through.

Since we were out in Henderson, we decided to have dinner at Lucille's BBQ. It was Frank's idea; I couldn't have been more pleased. We drove up to the District, I had to laugh as caked mud slinged off the truck... we're always classing up the place. Dinner was excellent. Biscuits, artichoke spinach dip, pulled pork, fried chicken, cheesy grits and mac & cheese. Yummy, yum, yum!

We stopped at the car wash on the way home. The bay was flooded with mud, after a couple attempts at power washing it away some remained under the truck. In fact, in our parking lot, there's currently a ring of dried up mud surrounding the Jimmy. Our HOA is having a fit about it; they can sweat it out until later today.

Monday we went to my mom’s and barbecued cheeseburgers and rib eyes, we also had corn on the cob and garlic bread. We can’t wait to fire up our own grill at our own house. Soon… I know. We rode Fancy. She was not being cooperative; evidently she was not in the mood to be ridden. When I was riding, she wouldn’t obey my commands and she kept trying to spit out her bit - silly horse. Needless to say, I didn’t ride long. After the sun set, Frank lit the fire barrel. We sat around that and gazed at the stars before we headed back home.

Unreal.

May 20, 2008
The home inspection went well today. Nothing major showed up while Frank was there. There's one part to the pool that's worn, but it's no biggie. We’ll have a complete report in a day, maybe two.

Frank said he loved the house before, but now he loves it at least 4x more since there were a bunch of tidbits he learned of: the satellite dish is pre-wired, the entire house is networked, Vonage is even wired in every room, the surround sound/intercom can accommodate Sirius radio, there is an air conditioner in the garage, there is Koi in the pond in the backyard and all the plants have bubblers. He didn't realize the house had a central vacuum before, either. I was aware of that, but everything else was news to me, as well.

The sellers are moving out in two weeks, so we're going to try to close sooner. We spoke to the lender and it looks like it could be a done deal June 4th. So, now, that’s what we’re shooting for. Hard to imagine we could have a house in a little over two weeks. I am in awe. Someone pinch me.

Purse strings

May 19, 2008
We had a very low key weekend. We’ve tightened the purse strings to save every penny possible for our down payment and misc. expenses. Nothing makes you want to spend more than knowing you can’t. In the last week, we’ve only had two meals out. Friday we had the fajitas express lunch at Garduno’s inside the Palms. And Saturday, we had Buffalo Wild Wings. That may not seem like a big deal to most, but we’ve grown accustomed to dining out several times a week. My oven at home probably thinks the world is ending; it’s been used more in the last week than it has all year.

Saturday night we went downtown to check out the Helldorado festivities. We caught a portion of the parade, which was very lackluster and we stayed for the fireworks at 9:15. The RJ stated the display would be lit from the roof of Fremont Square, formerly Neonopolis. That was the first I’ve heard of the name change, I wonder when it occurred. We were shocked to see some new tenants coming to Neonopolis, err, Fremont Square. Maybe the name change will bring some life to the place? A sushi restaurant is coming soon and there’s a little coffee, sandwich, ice cream shop that opened two weeks ago. We bought a beverage to show our support and wished the gentleman well on his endeavor.

We caught the firework display from the 5th floor motel style rooms at the El Cortez. It offered us a great perspective to view the show. It lasted about 10 minutes; it was mildly entertaining, it would’ve been better had they not drawn it out as long. Overall, it was nice to see so many people, especially locals, on Fremont Street.

Sunday marked the second day of record triple digits so we spent most of the day in the pool. Conditions were perfect! We had the pool to ourselves, there was no wind, the water was warm, but cool enough to be refreshing. Eventually, the swim and sun, wore us out and we had a siesta. Which got us thinking… the new house needs a Mexican hammock, maybe two? I don’t want to wait until our trip in December, so I must see if I can score one online. See? There I go again, itching to spend.

In house related news, the home inspection is scheduled for tomorrow, things are just zipping along. Now, if we could just sell the condo... then we could loosen those purse strings.

Offer accepted!

May 17, 2008
Negotiations are complete! I can't believe we've made it this far so quickly. No other home purchase has moved at this pace. Escrow will open on Monday and we're scheduled to close June 16, 2008. Only two hurdles left: home inspection and appraisal, and then, assuming all goes well, we will finally have a house.

Congratulations!

May 15, 2008
Those words are generally well received in any circumstance, but it was music to my ears when the lender notified us today that we are, in fact, approved.

We've contacted our realtor and she is drawing up a contract. We've decided to go balls out and place an offer at the exact amount we're willing to pay. There's been a lot of interest and several showings this week so we don't want to lose it by making an unrealistic bid. This way, either they take it or leave it. Here's hoping they accept...

Patience is a virtue

Among many things, waiting sure gives the mind plenty of time to wonder. Curiosity got the better of me and I started researching both properties we’re interested in. I was able to dig up information from the assessor’s website on the Lost Valley home (the one with potential that needed a lot work). It was purchased 10/00 for 183,995, and again 7/05 for 499,990; then it foreclosed in March for 344,470. It’s currently listed for 339,900. I checked it out on realtor.com today and there is now a contingent offer. Looks like that one is off the table.

Frank considered playing a wait and see game with the other one we like. It's newly on the market; it’s been listed for 2 wks. The longer it sits the more likely the homeowner will be willing to negotiate. He thinks if it's meant to be, it'll still be there. I, on the other hand, would rather know sooner than later whether or not they’ll negotiate our offer. If they don’t, then we can focus our attention on new listings. I think we’ve come to agreement to place an offer once we have approval from our lender.

We were told keeping the condo is a non-issue. The only hitch that the lender mentioned is that we may have trouble getting approved with a FHA loan because they consider Las Vegas high risk. I understand why they’d feel that way, given that we lead the nation in foreclosures, but they should recognize that we are not part of the problem. In theory, there is NO reason we should have trouble getting a loan. However, I’ll be happy once that is confirmed. We expect to hear something today.

Each home purchase we've made has been unique and none have been the norm. I shouldn't expect this one to be any different. I just have to take a breath and know that what will be, will be.

Looking up

May 13, 2008
I left work early yesterday and met with our realtor to see more homes. Frank got stuck at work and joined us later. We toured a couple dumps that were bank owned, but we also saw three homes that were listed by homeowners. What a difference! The homes were well maintained and clean. One in particular was a diamond in the rough. It’s a 4 bedroom 3 bath home with sun room, pool and spa. The sellers are the original owners and they took great pride in their home. The place is immaculate. The house has everything we are seeking and a bit more, and it’s located on a cul-de-sac in the SW west part of town that we enjoy. The only downside is the list price is higher than our budget allows since we intend to keep the condo. We plan to place an offer about $20k below list, hopefully, the sellers will accept. Before we can write the contract we need a new approval letter from our lender. Our last one qualified us based on the sale of the condo, now, we need one that confirms we still qualify. Frank already has the ball rolling on that, with any luck the lender will move quickly and we’ll have it wrapped up today or tomorrow. Then maybe, just maybe, we will call this house home

The difference a day makes

May 12, 2008
As of Friday, we were less than a week away from our vacation to San Francisco. We had been anticipating the trip for a couple months. However, by Saturday, our plans completely changed. While I was shopping for a couple items for the trip, Frank called and suggested we start house hunting now rather than wait until our condo sells. Particularly because the deadline for his relocation perks is quickly approaching, and frankly, we’re tired of waiting. It’s been on the market for six months and there’s been very little interest because qualified buyers have unbeatable deals (on newer places) at their fingertips due to the overwhelmed market from the mortgage crisis fallout. He calculated raw numbers and realized we could afford to keep the condo until it does sell, and still swing the costs of owning a home. It didn’t take much to sell me on the idea because it was something I had already been tossing around. He set an appointment with our realtor for Sunday.

Saturday evening we searched home listings and compiled a list of 19 homes that met our criteria. We ran figures again to be sure we can afford two homes for an indefinite amount of time, and sure enough we can do it. We’ll have to sacrifice a few meals at high end restaurants and other splurges, but it’ll be worthwhile. We also determined that it was best to cancel the San Francisco trip as the money would be better spent toward the down payment of a house.

Sunday we began the house hunt. Half of the properties we selected had offers pending so our realtor printed off eight others with similar criteria. I have to say the process was a bit discouraging; every house we looked at was a short sale, foreclosure or repo. We didn’t intend to look at bank owned properties, it just so happened that’s what was available. A few homes were not structurally sound or up to code, others needed to be completely gutted and a couple needed cosmetic repairs. None were move-in ready, it seems anything decent is swept off the market in an instant. The investors are pouncing on them left and right. There were two homes worth consideration: one was smaller than I’d like, the other was 2555 sq ft. so it offered room to grow. The home had no interior doors, it needs to paint, flooring and overall maintenance. However, I saw the potential right away, Frank was hesitant, but he’s coming around. I think it’ll cost $15k for repairs, we are considering placing an offer below list to cover repair costs. It’s not likely the bank will accept the offer, but I figure it can’t hurt to try. There’s another home listed down the street, it has an identical floor plan, in good condition, no pool, but gorgeous landscaping, it is listed for $420,000. That’s more than $80k than the house we’re interested in, after touring that property I was assured that this home truly has potential.

There's another 12 properties we'd like to see. Most are more than we want to spend, but I'd like to see how they compare to those we have seen. Hopefully, we'll be able to take a look today.

BINGO!

May 8, 2008
Yesterday on my lunch break I stopped by Minuto’s Italian Deli. I picked up hot Italian sausage and bread, sausage roll, and a calzone. The latter will be dinner tonight. Last night, I sautéed onion and green pepper and we had delicious Italian sausage sandwiches for dinner.

Frank was itching to get out of the house so we headed out, Frank told me to choose between Rampart, Red Rock or Suncoast. I noticed that we could make the 9pm Bingo session at Red Rock so I suggested we go there.

I couldn’t believe the parking garage elevators still had duct tape keeping the button cover secured to the wall. I first noticed it about three weeks ago when we caught a movie at the theaters. A billion dollar property is held together by duct tape, ahh, the irony. I can’t be the only one that finds that funny. But then again, I’ve never bought into Red Rock being anything more than a local’s casino. I mean how classy can a property be if it has a food court, movie theater and bowling alley. Not to mention the place is flooded with teeny boppers, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. The parade of future strippers and the pussies - ahem, men - they’ll one day support, crowds of emo kids, and rebellious types puffing on cigs in the elevators and stairwells are all far more annoying than amusing. We avoid the place like the plague on the weekends, fortunately weekdays are manageable… hence, my suggestion for bingo.

We got seated and situated, then waited for the session to begin. We haven’t played Bingo in a couple months; this was a second experience with Million Dollar Bingo. They claim five balls can change your life, but they’ve haven’t helped me yet. I think I prefer their old promotion with individual session jackpots, but those days are gone so no reason to fret. A few games in, we won regular bingo, but so did sixteen others. We won a whopping jackpot of $5. Life changing? Hardly. The rest of the session was typical… you’re down to one or two numbers, and you believe you have a chance, you begin to will numbers to be called and then it happens… someone screams out BINGO! Damn, them! The quiet room sighs and mutters all kinds of terrible things under their breath. I suppose that’s the fun of it, though. Ultimately, I like it because my buy-in is guaranteed to last an hour.

On our way out Frank threw $20 in double double bonus video poker. He played for a while, but no royals or aces with a kicker were dealt despite our begging and pleading. As usual, the credits wore down to zero. Aside from bingo and poker we’ve never walked out of Red Rock with winnings, so I don’t know why we’d expect anything different. At least, now, they can buy more duct tape.

Review: T.C.'s Rib Crib

May 6, 2008
We were craving BBQ, our first thought was Lucille’s BBQ but open table doesn’t accept same day reservations after 5pm. I suggested we try T.C.’s Rib Crib instead.

We were warmly greeted when we arrived, there were a few diners, but more folks were waiting on carryout. We sat at a table toward the back; we ordered a couple iced teas and browsed the menu. Everything sounded delicious, but we settled on a pulled pork sandwich with mac & cheese and cornbread, and a full slab of baby back ribs with potato salad and sweet potato fries.

We looked over the family photos that lined the walls while we waited for our food. The iced tea had an odd aftertaste. Needless to say we weren’t fans of their brew.

The food arrived quickly and it smelled fantastic. We dug in right away. My pulled pork was tender and full of flavor. The bun was fresh and held together well. It was great. The ribs were meaty and the meat had a nice smoky flavor. A few pieces had quite a bit of fat, but the meat itself was tender and juicy. The sides were all great. The corn bread was the weakest link, it was a bit dry. The sweet potato fries and macaroni and cheese were my favorite. Frank enjoyed the potato salad, as well.

Regrettably, we were much too full to try any homemade desserts. Service was friendly and prompt. Our bill was $32 before tip.

Prior to dining at T.C.’s the only notable BBQ we’ve had in Vegas has been Ellis Island’s ribs and Lucille’s BBQ. I’d gladly add T.C.’s to the list and I’d venture to say they serve up the best ribs I’ve tried. Ellis Island’s are a greater value, but T.C.’s have better flavor (and I like their sides far more). I liked Lucille’s pulled pork a bit better than T.C.’s, but it was still great. When it comes to ribs, Ellis Island and T.C.’s both outshine Lucille’s. That said, I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.

Weekend update

May 5, 2008
This weekend I spent more time with the family, sure it was chaotic at times, but overall it was fun-filled. I spent lots of time with Nicky on Friday and Saturday. I babysat him Friday night so my brother and sister could hit the strip.

My most interesting encounter occurred when I gave Nicky a tubby; a bath is his favorite activity. He’s super cute about it, he gets very excited, laughs and yells tub-tub-TUBBY!! It turned out to be a very interesting experience. First he peed on my carpet after removing his diaper. Then, he peed in the tub. I drained the water and refilled it with fresh water. Then we’re playing and I notice something dirty. I couldn’t figure out where it came from, until a turd floated by. I couldn’t believe it. I fished it out, drained the tub, rinsed it and refilled it for the second time. Nicky was having a blast splashing and dumping water over himself, and then he stood up and walked over to me and peed for the second time. I drained the tub and refilled it one last time. We finished up bath time without any further incidents. We played the rest of the night. Frank joined in when he got home. Frank taught Nicky the hand motions to “Wheels on the bus” now that’s his most favorite song. His belly laughs and loves (kisses & hugs), sure make the challenging times worthwhile. Eventually, he got sleepy so I put him to bed. Amy has trouble fairly regularly so I was pretty proud that I got him down as easily as I did.

Saturday we shopped at the Las Vegas Outlets and Fashion Show Mall. Then we headed out to my mom’s house for the night. We played outside and Nicky got to try his new ride, a Power Wheels Viper. I think his momma enjoyed it a bit more than he did, but he’ll have a ball with it later on.


Sunday, Amy and Nicky returned back to Chicago. My mom flew back with them. My grandma has throat cancer and recently had a second surgery to remove as much as they could. Recovery has been troublesome, so my mom is tending to her until the 13th. Hopefully, she’ll make great strides and feel better soon.

Mike's flight leaves tonight. It was nice to have one on one time with him Sunday night. He’ll be 21 in July, so being here this close to his birthday has been a bit torturous.

We’ve eaten at a few of our regular places: Amore, Buffalo Wild Wings, BJ’s, Straight from Philly Steak Out, and In-N-Out. Sunday, Frank and I returned to The Maple Tree for breakfast.

We’ve been once before, shortly after they first opened. We thought it was good on that visit but we were disappointed by their maple syrup. It wasn’t as tasty or as thick as varieties we’ve had from Wisconsin. Sunday, I tried the southwestern scramble: Three eggs scrambled with bacon, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and cheddar. Frank went with the ham and cheese scramble. Both came with wheat toast and homestyle potatoes with sautéed onion. Their wheat bread was extraordinarily good. Everything else was pretty tasty, too. Frank also ordered a side of pancakes. They weren’t too notable and I still am weary that they use real maple syrup. Service was good and the bill was $26.

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