Busy bee and watching tv

September 30, 2008
I had a lengthy to-do list growing; fortunately, we were productive and made a good dent in it this weekend. I painted the 4th bedroom, good bye nearly neon green and hello raffia cream. We took down the light fixture over the kitchen table and replaced it with a ceiling fan. That’s one more gold fixture gone for good. We scraped the painted parrots off the laundry room window, and the seagull, clouds and sea painting off the master bath window. Only three more window paintings to go. We expanded the pond to include another basin and a cascading waterfall. The new pieces are in place, but we still need to build up the surrounding area with rocks and plants. Pictures to come. We attempted to buy an elliptical and recumbent bike I’ve been eyeing, but we missed Sears’ financing promotion by one day. The exercise equipment will have to wait. Also, cleaned house and did laundry, sewed some buttons and hemmed a pair of pants. I made traditional chocolate chips cookies per Frank’s request:

Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375ºF. Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixer bowl, cream butter with sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375ºF for 9 to 11 minutes, or until golden brown.

The cookies came out well. It was just what Frank had been craving.
And I tried another new pork recipe, Grecian Pork Tenderloin. The marinade was tasty, but it didn’t infuse the tenderloin as much as I would’ve liked. Some pieces were a bit bland. I’ll use the recipe again, but next time I’ll make kabobs.

The weekend wasn’t all work and no play, but play was limited to swimming in the pool, relaxing in the spa and enjoying good tv. We were happy to welcome back Dexter and Californication. I’m fully caught up on Mad Men, I’ve enjoyed having a nice bank of episodes on the dvr. Waiting until Sunday for the next episode to air will be killer.

I finally had a good week in Fantasy football; I’m now 1-3. Nice to finally achieve a win. I’m holding my own in my contests, too, so all is good in the world of football.

Baseball season has a chance of being extended. After the embarrassing losses we suffered against the Twins last week, we’ve earned ourselves another chance at the playoffs by defeating the Tigers yesterday afternoon. Tonight, we’ll watch the game with friends and chowdown on stuffed pizza from Amore. Hopefully, we’ll have reason to celebrate.

A hit and a miss

September 25, 2008
I tried a couple more recipes this week. The first was Margarita Pork Tenderloin. The cumin was overpowering. Frank and I both thought it tasted like tacos. Needless to say, this was the miss of the week.

The hit was last night's dinner, Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs. The chicken was flavorful, moist and tender. I grilled up zucchini and summer squash to go along with it. It was a tasty dinner that I'll make again.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste (optional)
5 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch cubes

DIRECTIONS
In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place chicken in the bowl, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard marinade.

Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill skewers for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

Trail No. 9

September 22, 2008
Sunday morning we met up with Vegas Valley Four Wheelers to run Trail No.9. The trail is near the house, it was neat to explore the desert so close to home. We had a great turnout, eleven rigs, all were Jeeps except us. This was the trickiest trail we’ve conquered. We suffered a little damage as did a couple others; but all in all, it was great fun and a gorgeous day.

Away we go

From Trail #9


From Trail #9

Gorgeous views

From Trail #9 Scenary


From Trail #9 Scenary

Arriving at the first obstacle

From Trail #9


Our turn




The desert is gorgeous

From Trail #9 Scenary

Back on the trail

From Trail #9

Follow the leader

From Trail #9

Lined up for the next challenge

From Trail #9

Frank’s turn

From Trail #9

This little girl was the cutest ever. She covered her eyes with her hat for this one.

From Trail #9

The trail gets a little squirrely

From Trail #9


From Trail #9


Our truck is a bit wide for the narrow trail, we got stuck



The view from my perspective

From Trail #9


I was about 6” from eating dirt

From Trail #9


Rather than risk damage by working ourselves out, a good tug set us free



Back in business

From Trail #9


The last obstacle

From Trail #9


From Trail #9


From Trail #9


From Trail #9


From Trail #9


Pretty minor, but we managed to bust our shock



From Trail #9


From Trail #9


From Trail #9


From Trail #9


That’s all the fun for the day, riding down the way we came in
From Trail #9


And back to city life

From Trail #9

Sweet Success

I had success with a few recipes this weekend. The first one I tried was Brown Sugar Bittersweet & Milk Chocolate Cookies.

M’mmm, cookie dough.

From baking

Ready to bake

From baking

Just need a glass of milk

From baking

Then Saturday’s dinner was Pork Chops Stuffed with Smoked Gouda and Bacon, with grilled asparagus and crescent rolls.

INGREDIENTS
2 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (2 1/4 inch thick) center-cut, bone-in pork chops
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat.
In a small bowl, combine the cheese, bacon, parsley, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

Lay the chop flat on cutting board, and with a sharp knife held parallel to the board, cut a pocket into the pork, going all the way to the bone, but leaving the sides intact. Stuff cheese mixture into pocket, and close with a wooden toothpick. Brush meat with oil, and season with salt and more black pepper.

Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, or until pork is done.

And Sunday, I made Grilled Chicken with Peppers and Artichokes, served with cheese ciabatta bread.

INGREDIENTS
1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts
1/3 cup dry white wine or Progresso® chicken broth (from 32-oz carton)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 lb)
2 medium bell peppers, cut lengthwise into fourths
4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS
Drain and reserve marinade from artichoke hearts; cover and refrigerate artichokes. In shallow glass or plastic dish, mix marinade and wine. Add chicken and bell peppers, turning to coat with marinade. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, at least 30 minutes but no longer than 24 hours.

Heat gas or charcoal grill. Remove chicken and bell peppers from marinade; reserve marinade. Place chicken on grill. Cover grill; cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Turn chicken; add bell peppers to grill. Cover; cook 10 to 15 minutes longer or until bell peppers are tender and juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F).

Strain reserved marinade. In 1-quart saucepan, heat marinade, artichoke hearts, onions and black pepper to boiling; boil and stir 1 minute. Serve artichoke sauce with chicken and bell peppers.

We really enjoyed both dinner recipes, they'll be added to the regular rotation.

Today's Ramblings

September 18, 2008
Fortunately, water was back on when I got home from work yesterday. What a relief! Nothing will make you appreciate fresh running water more than losing it for a period of time. I don’t care what the monthly cost of water will be, whatever it is, it’s worth it.

I got word that my sister and nephew will be visiting in a month, to the day, actually. I’m very much looking forward to seeing them. It would only be better if my brother came out, as well. He’s been tossing around the idea of moving out here again. He’s 21 now, so that’ll open doors of opportunity that were closed before. Frank and I have offered to let him stay with us, so he can get on his feet. Frank’s gram aided us by giving us a place to stay when we first arrived, we were very fortunate. Her kindness, support and guidance helped lead us to where we are today. We’re forever grateful. We’ll happily accept the chance to pay it forward. The ball is in my brother’s court, we’ll see what he decides.

It’s seems like yesterday I was looking forward to September for the start of good tv. Hard to believe we’re already midway through the month. We’ve been enjoying episodes of The Shield and Entourage. Tonight, Always Sunny in Philadelphia premieres with two new episodes. Not too much longer before the premieres of Dexter and Californication. I can’t wait. This week we saw the finale of Weeds, I really believe that show jumped the shark this season. I’ve gotten into Mad Men recently. I’ve watched the first season online over the last couple weeks. I have season two recorded on my dvr. I think I’ll delve into those this weekend. It’s nice not to have that in between season lull. It’s great to have good tv back; I was growing tired of filler.

Also, I was happy to see the return of football. However, not much has panned out too well for me so far. I’m 0-2 in my Fantasy League; my other contests haven’t fared terribly well, either. I figure it’s early, if I set the bar low in the beginning. The rest of the season can only improve. I’m hoping, anyway. Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping tabs on the White Sox. I’d love to see them make the playoffs, but with the plague of injuries, I’m afraid it’s not too likely. I’m keeping faith that they pull through, get on one hell of a winning streak and somehow find their way to Anaheim. It’d be great to see a game before the end of the season. We only saw them once this year, in Spring Training.

Wishing I was in Mexico

September 17, 2008
Yesterday, I went to wash my hands after getting home from work. There was no water. Tried the bathroom sink, no water there, either. Checked the front door to see if there were any notices. Nothing. I looked up the number to the Water District and gave them a call. It was 5:03, their offices close at 5:00. Perfect. I called the emergency hotline. Turns out, they haven't received payment since June 6th. We haven't received any notifications or bills, and we've had water so I never thought anything of it. I did pay water reclamation, but evidently that was strictly for the sewers. At our condo, our water was included in our HOA dues so we never dealt with the Water District. When we set up our utilities it never crossed by mind to call them, too. I was able to pay the past due amount over the phone, but our water won't be turned on until sometime today. Such a pain in the ass. It's been sometime since I was without water, I really take it for granted. I felt like I was in Mexico this morning brushing my teeth with bottled water. However, instead of sitting on the white powdery beach under the bright sun, listening to waves crash. I'm stuck staring at my beige office walls under the glow of the florescent lights, listening to phones ringing, printers printing and typing of keyboards. Somehow, it's just not the same.

Fortunately, we didn't intend to have dinner at home last night. We had dinner plans with friends at TC's Rib Crib. It had been a few months since we had been there. The ribs were tasty, although, a bit fatty. I also had sweet potato fries and mac & cheese. Yum!

After dinner I mentioned to Frank that I wanted to try Frozen Aces (Tropicana/Ft Apache). They serve fruit ice and gelati. The folks at chowhound have been singing praises about the place since it opened at the end of May. They make different flavors of fruit ice daily. We sampled blue raspberry, kiwi strawberry banana, and the custard. Frank went with custard. I got gelati, a blend of custard and fruit ice. I chose the blue raspberry. It was refreshing and delicious.

25 Song Soundtrack

September 16, 2008
Recently, my friend, Wendy, asked if there were only 25 songs that you could listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be?

It took me time to come up with a list, at first I struggled with finding a way to narrow down the vast possibilities. I like a variety of music which spans many genres over the last fifty years, so that made a tough task a little more difficult. But after much debate I pared down the list to only include songs that make me happy and/or bring me back to special moments in my life. My 25 songs, in no particular order...

1. Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
2. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
3. Drops of Jupiter – Train
4. Ironic – Alanis Morissette
5. Simple Man - Lynyrd Skynyrd
6. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
7. Castles Made of Sand – Jimi Hendrix
8. What I Got – Sublime
9. What’s Up – Four Non-blondes
10. Basket Case – Green Day
11. Aenima – Tool
12. Closer – NIN
13. Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers
14. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
15. The Joker – Steve Miller Band
16. She Talks To Angels – Black Crowes
17. Trust – Megadeth
18. Last Dance with Mary Jane – Tom Petty
19. Bawitdaba – Kid Rock
20. Living Dead Girl – Rob Zombie
21. Fancy – Reba McIntire
22. Happy Phantom – Tori Amos
23. Livin’ on the Edge – Aerosmith
24. Hey Big Spender – Peggy Lee
25. Beatles – Something

It was a fun challenge, I encourage you to give it a try.

Call me, Susie Homemaker...

September 15, 2008
I was pretty domestic this weekend. I did some baking, cleaning, landscaping, and Frank and I hosted a football party on Sunday. Here's a couple recipes I tried.

Low Fat Banana Bread

I made no changes to the recipe. I smashed the bananas, leaving some chunks, and I liked it that way. Next time, I'll add some walnuts.

Batter

From baking

Ready to bake

From baking

Cooling...

From baking

Moist and delicious.

From baking


Jalapeno Popper Cups

I used reduced fat items where I could and I omitted the green chiles and used chopped jalapenos, instead. We like a lot of heat.

Filling mixture

From baking

Biscuits waiting to be filled

From baking

Ready for the oven

From baking

Yum!

From baking

Beautiful nights and good fun

September 11, 2008
The temperatures are getting cooler, humidity cleared out after Monday's storm, the weather has been pleasant. I love this time of year. Just a few more weeks and we'll be able to turn off the a/c, open the windows, and enjoy waking up to the cool crisp air. We've had a couple fun nights so far this week.

Tuesday, San Gennaro Feast kicked off with a firework display. We hopped in the Jimmy, and drove over by Buffalo Wild Wings, we went off-road and found ourselves a perfect place to view the show. There wasn't a soul between us and the pirotechnics crew. Each firework burst right over our heads. It felt like the show was just for us. It was a few minutes long and very entertaining.

Wednesday, we had dinner with friends at Amore. They're originally from California so they were in for a treat, this was their first time digging into a stuffed pizza. They enjoyed it. Amore will soon be offering baby back ribs on their menu, they brought out a 1/2 slab for us to try. They were good, their BBQ sauce is thick and smoky, just the way we like it. After dinner we headed to Flamingo. We had tickets to see Vinnie Favorito.

We made a stop at O'Sheas for drinks before the show. We were at the bar near the Beer Pong tables. We watched a couple groups play. I'm sorry, but that's so nasty! No way would I drink a beer after a ball that's been rolling all over the floor had been in it. They have a glass of water to dip it in, but water alone won't kill germs. They'd be better off rinsing it in alcohol.

After a couple drinks we headed to the show. Vinnie's been at the Flamingo about a month, he moved over from O'Sheas. We've seen him a few times years ago when he performed at Harrah's Improv. His latest gig has him performing seven nights a week at 8pm, ticket prices are $39.95 and $49.95

Regular seating for Vinnie's show is general admission. We were among the last in the theater, but we had decent seats to the far left of the stage. Bugsys Cabaret is quaint, so I don't think there's a bad seat, unless a person happens to block your view. Cocktails in the theater were pricey $9.25 for rum and coke.

Vinnie got started right away, he told a few jokes to warm us up before he started working the room. He singles people out and makes fun of stereotypes, it's a riot. He was hilarious and we had a great time. I recommend his show. We might go back again this month.

After the show we headed home. The drive was perfect. We soaked up the neon, warm desert air blew through our hair, while the near full moon lit up the sky showcasing the silhouette of the mountains in the distance. I'll never tire of nights like these.

Tie Rod Scenery

September 9, 2008
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