March 31, 2009

Loving Las Vegas

Saturday kicked off my weekend of indulgence. Frank treated me to a massage at Bally’s Spa for my birthday. The facility is nice and large. I liked that it was a bit spread out so I had time to myself in the steam room and sauna. I had a relaxing therapeutic massage. I spent a little more time in spa before I met Frank for lunch. We went to Bill’s Victorian Room for Chinese. They serve the yummiest shrimp fried rice in town – at least, that I’ve found. It was a perfect afternoon.

Sunday, we began our anniversary staycation with brunch at Siena Bistro. We sat out on the patio overlooking the golf course.

From Palazzo

I had a frittata with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes it came with toast and hashbrowns. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Frank chose a honey roasted turkey club. His sandwich came with homemade chips and a small salad. His dish did not disappoint. Service was great and prices were very reasonable. It was a great find. We’ll definitely dine again.

We took a stroll around the grounds after we finished up. It was lovely just to take in the scenery and soak up the sun.

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From there, we headed to the strip to check into the Palazzo. We used valet, they were prompt, the bell desk handled our bag, and we were off to registration. We were offered an upgrade for a reduced fee, I inquired about the Siena suite. Those suites offer a jetted-tub. That’s what mattered most. We were quoted $100 to upgrade on top of our $109 nightly rate. We tried to negotiate, we offered $75, our associate checked on it, but $100 was as low as they’d go. We decided against it. We were assigned a luxury suite on the 36th floor overlooking Wynn’s golf course.

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

The suite was long and somewhat narrow. It was nicely appointed, but pretty worn given its age. Furniture was nicked, upholstery was stained, and bedding was ripped. After we had a look around, we decided it was worth the $100 to upgrade to the Siena Suite. I’ve priced it before between $699 and $369. $209 was a great rate for the 1280 sq ft suite. I called the front desk and they brought up new keys. The new room was on the 16th floor, but we wanted a high floor. We went back down to the desk to get it straightened out. We scored a complimentary strip view, supposedly a $40 value, for the trouble. They wished us a happy anniversary and we were on our way.

We moved to the 45th floor. The Siena suite was beautiful. There were two bathrooms, jetted-tub and large shower, three flat panel TV’s, living and dining area, with separate bedroom and walk-in closet. There was also a fitness room that housed a humongous elliptical. Furnishings were plush and comfortable.

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

We had beautiful views from the living room and the bedroom.

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

I unpacked and we got settled. I was very surprised that the suite didn’t have a fridge. Technically, it did, but it was filled with beverages available for purchase. I used one of the sinks as a make shift cooler. I filled it with water, pop and Prosecco. I replenished the ice whenever it got low. Fortunately, the ice machine was only a couple doors down.

We relaxed and lounged about just enjoying each other, the accommodations and view until our dinner reservation at Aquaknox. We dined at 6:00, we practically had the place to ourselves, however, it did fill toward the end of our meal.

An amuse bouche of salmon mousse and parmesan cheese sticks got us started.

Orders of jumbo prawn cocktail and crab claws followed. The claws were excellent, we wished we skipped the prawns (they’re better at Seablue) and ordered more claws.

Next, we shared a cheese platter. Three types were served with fig, honey comb, grapes, crackers and baguettes. The selection was very good.

I planned to order halibut, but it wasn’t offered. I opted to go with seared sea scallops (my third time having them this week) served with a pea medley and mushrooms. They had a perfect sear, they were tender moist and simply delicious. Just as good as those I had at Fiamma a week before. Frank went with grilled jumbo prawns with cous cous. His dish was good, but the cous cous was a bit more notable than the prawns. That shouldn’t be the case. Again, Seablue outshines Aquaknox with their prawns. We also ordered a side of asparagus. It was fine. I just prefer my own grilled version I make at home.

We skipped dessert because over dinner we decided we’d grab our favorite treats next door at Stratta.

Petit fours were delivered with a check. They were a tasty sweet bite to end the meal. Service was good. Total bill came to $125 before tip.

We crossed back over to Palazzo and made our way to Wynn. Since we were there we thought we’d gamble a bit. Frank experienced issues with his red card, we had to go to the desk to get them resolved. The gentleman there was a dick. He was needlessly rude. It really affected Frank’s mood. We went to Stratta. The wait for the bar was over a half hour. We didn’t want to wait. The whole thing was displeasing. We went back to Palazzo and agreed to forget it and just continue enjoying the night. We gambled at Palazzo. We tried our luck on all kinds of video poker and slot machines. The only thing that treated me kindly was caveman keno. It was my second time playing, both times I’ve been successful. I should really just stick with it until my luck runs out. The gambling gods weren’t shining on Frank, either. We gave up and retreated to our suite.

Frank soaked in the tub. While I gazed at the lights across the valley. The tub is lovely, but not large enough for two. Nor was it big enough for Frank. I think you’d need to be no taller than 5’10” to be comfortable.

Hours had passed since our dinner. We were in the mood for a snack. We looked over the in-suite dining menu, but we decided to go down to Grand Lux for a bite.

It was midnight it seemed everyone was loaded from the hotel elevators, through the casino and including other diners in the restaurant. Cocktail service must be steady.

We ordered our usual wedge salad and buffalo chicken rolls, Frank, also ordered a burger.

Food was good as always. Bellies full, we returned to the room. I soaked in tub, while Frank lazed in bed. We snuggled in bed and eventually dozed off.

Monday I was first to rise. I gave the elliptical a try. It was far more complicated than mine so I gave up messing with the settings. I took a long soak and showered. Frank followed behind me.

We thought we’d try Bouchon for breakfast, but they only serve until 10:30. By the time we were dressed, we missed the cut-off. We both wanted to try Morels, as well. I checked to see if they serve lunch, they do, and open at 11:00. We hung in the room until nearly noon. We just sat by the window and watched the world go by. It was wonderful.

We checked out, and headed down to Morels. We hoped to dine outside, but the patio was still shaded and it was too cool. We chose to sit in the dining room.

We snacked on light airy bread and butter while we waited to meet with the cheesemonger. We wanted some help choosing cheese selections. We paired our choices with a variety of sausages. The three cheeses we had were Gouda Super Aged, Montgomery Cheddar, and Tomme de Recollets. All were excellent.

Frank shared his onion soup with me. A feat, because it was incredibly delicious; it must be tastiest version we’ve come across.

Although, we could’ve called those selections lunch, we still had our entrees to go.

Frank had the Croque Monsieur. The sandwich was superb, it seemed to melt in you mouth. I had Quiche Lorraine, which was smooth and creamy. It was fantastic. As much as Frank enjoyed his sandwich he said he’d order the Quiche next time. Yes, there will certainly be a next time. Service was outstanding. Our check came to $87. A pricey lunch, but it was worth every penny. It won’t be forgotten any time soon.

We had a free-day, so I suggested we check out the Pinball Museum at Pecos/Trop (NW corner). We had a great time playing the machines. We took a liking to the baseball games from ’68 and ’69.

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

I gotta a kick out of Elton’s machine

From Palazzo

We had fun, we’ll definitely go back sometime. From there we went to the Gun Store on Tropicana. I’ve been shopping around for a Taurus .45, I was hoping they had one on hand for me to try, but no such luck. We debated trying a couple other ranges, but instead decided to go home and grab our gear and go shoot in the desert to take advantage of what was left of the beautiful day. Minutes later, we were in the middle of no where, only mountains and desert as far as the eye can see. Have I mentioned I love this city? Posh suite, fine dining to shooting in the desert. Yes, I love Las Vegas. I’m lucky to call it home. Another fabulous staycation in the books. I can't think of a better way to celebrate twelve years together.

Spring flowers

We had a great weekend! We had an enjoyable stay at Palazzo and we ate some great eats. Details and photos to come. In the meantime, take a look at these first of the season blooms. Very pretty.

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

From Palazzo

March 27, 2009

Wish I were there

I'm homesick. Well, home away from home-sick. We had to skip our Xpu-ha, Mexico trip last December. Frank and I have been itching to go ever since. He just sent me this video he stumbled upon.

It's beautifully done and it showcases the hotel perfectly. It brought me back there. I can feel the ocean breeze and taste the salty air.

December can't come soon enough.

Al Cielo Hotel from del Sol Photography on Vimeo.

Skillet Herb Roasted Chicken

Earlier this week, Frank requested a chicken and rice type dish. I tried a recipe from a can of cream of chicken soup.

Skillet Herb Roasted Chicken

1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp dried thyme
4 chicken breast halves
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 can Healthy request Cream of Chicken
1/2 c water
Parslied Rice

Sprinkle spices over chicken, I also added garlic salt and pepper. Cook chicken in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove chicken when done, keep warm. Add garlic to skillet, followed by soup and water, cook until combined and hot. Serve over chicken and Parslied Rice.

Parslied Rice: 4 cups of cooked long grain rice with 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley.

Calories 399, total fat 5g, saturated fat 2g, Cholesterol 76mg, Sodium 349mg, carbohydrates 52g, dietary fiber 1g, protein 32g

It was pretty good, definitely not great, but it earns points because it was so easy to throw together.

March 26, 2009

Birthday fun

Frank was a sweetheart, he surprised me with a massage and spa appointment for this Saturday at Bally's. I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. Spa on Saturday, good eats and a stay at the Palazzo on Sunday. I'm one lucky girl.

After lounging around a bit we headed out to dinner.

Our Rosemary's reservation was at 7:00. We arrived on time, walked in and it was very overwhelming. We were packed in like sardines. It was loud. We stepped aside and waited to be seated. A few minutes later we were led to our table. We were seated in the dining room at a table to the left of the doors that lead to the bar. Thankfully, the dining room was much more subdued than the bar area. I was grateful for the doors, they muffled the noise, but I’d soon learn how annoying they'd become.

Our waiter asked if we've been there before, I wished I lied and said we had. He went on and on... and on. During his monologue he must have closed that door to the bar area seven times. I resisted making a lame joke about some people being born in a barn. Finally, we were left alone to go over the menu. I had an idea of what I wanted so it didn't take me long to choose my selections. Frank seemed lost; he said nothing was really jumping out at him. There have been a few occasions when this happened before and the meals were bad to down right disastrous. I recognized this and I gave him the out. I asked if he wanted to go. He said, no, we'll stay. He wanted the rack of lamb, but it was served with kalamata olives. He hates olives. I figured they could omit them, especially since they inquired about any allergies or dining restrictions when we first sat down. So, we inquired with our waiter and they were happy to honor his request. We each selected pre-fixe menus, Frank chose soup, salad, entrée, and I opted for appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

We started with seafood salad on a homemade potato chip topped with onion marmalade. It was good, although, salty, but it worked. It was a nice balance of flavor.

Next, we snacked on bread. Two kinds were served: potato and white chocolate pecan glazed with honey. Both were good, I especially enjoyed the latter. I didn’t pick up any white chocolate taste, but it light, airy and moist.

There was a lull while we waited for our first course. It drew our attention to those awful doors. In. Out. Open. Close.

Our appetizers were delivered in unison. Frank had a special, black bean soup with pico de gallo and drizzled with cilantro crème. He first discovered black bean soup in Mexico. This version wasn’t nearly as good, but it was tasty nonetheless. I actually liked it better than my selection, Texas BBQ shrimp with Maytag Cheese slaw. The shrimp seemed overdone. The BBQ sauce was fine. The first bite of the slaw was great and then the bitterness of the blue cheese took over it overpowered any other hint of flavor.

After that, Frank was brought his Caesar salad. The parmesan croutons were huge; they reminded me of children’s building blocks. The romaine was wilted and limp, and simply soaked in dressing. It was too much; we both appreciate a lightly dressed crisp salad. We didn’t finish it.

Again we were left with a long break between courses. This only brought our attention back to those doors. In. Out. Open. Close. We figured it must have been thirty-seven times – thirty eight – thirty nine – C’mon forty! Forty times those doors opened and closed and we hadn’t even dug into our entrées yet.

Finally, we were presented with our entrées. Presentation was nice, we were anxious to dig in. I chose the special, sea scallops wrapped in prosciutto served over lentils with mushrooms and sun-dried tomato and some sort of red vinaigrette. The scallops were dry as the Mojave, I don’t know if the prosciutto drew out all the moisture or what, but they weren’t very good. They seemed overdone and under seasoned. The dish was tasteless. The lentils were bad – they, too, were bland and only had a deep earthy taste. The sun-dried tomatoes had the most flavor. The sauce looked like Thousand Island dressing, but lacked any type of pizzazz. Frank’s lamb was cooked to perfection, but the meat was chewy and bit fattier than it should be. The bordelaise was plain; his basic mashed potatoes were pedestrian but were the better part of the dish.

I was perplexed at this point. I’ve read countless reviews that gave Rosemary’s great accolades for complexity of flavors and achieving great balance with savory and sweet, etc. The only place I saw that showcased was with the amuse-bouche.

Moving on to dessert. We thought we’d ask our waiter to recommend something. Perhaps, we’d been poorly choosing our dishes? He suggested coconut bread pudding. I laughed. There is nothing Frank hates more than coconut. I can’t stand bread pudding. There was no other dessert on that menu that could have been more of a mismatch. He couldn't possibly of known, so we humored the guy and let him go on about how deliciously moist the bread pudding is because of the coconut milk. He left us alone so we could look over the menu.

Nothing grabbed Frank; the desserts I’ve heard good about weren’t listed so I opted to try the Goat Cheese Cheesecake with caramel coulis and hazelnuts. It was the only option that stood out, the others could be sampled in any restaurant in town. Except the bread pudding, I suppose.

The wait for that cheesecake was far too long. It was ridiculous, really. I regretted ordering it. I wondered if they were milking the goat. We’d been sitting for two hours. We were antsy. The chairs aren’t comfortable. Those doors were driving me batty. Yes, it still continued. In. Out. Open. Close.

At last, dessert was served. It was good, too. They brought dessert with a lit candle and a “Happy Birthday” message. I’m certain that caused the lengthy delay. While thoughtful, I would’ve preferred not having to wait. Happily, our check was delivered at that time. A huge victory, we thought for sure we’d be held hostage. The bill was $125. My portion of the total was half-off because it was ladies night. Also, due to ladies night, 18% gratuity was also applied to the total. Service was decent, but slow, and the first round of refills took a bit. I’m not sure the 18% was warranted. When deserved, we tip at least 20% and often more. I’m not a fan of having the tip included. However, I understand that people do tend to under-tip when discounts are applied. I’m sure that’s what prompted the charge.

Lastly, three treats were delivered: a buckeye, lemon tart and coconut something. Frank hates lemon desserts nearly as much as coconut, so the buckeye was they one safe option for him. He bit into it and he was disgusted. I couldn’t understand why, it should be chocolate and peanut butter. I took a taste and it was awful. It tasted spoiled; it was bitter and just bad. I took a bite of the lemon tart to get rid of the buckeye taste. Now that was bitter, it was liked a bite out of a whole lemon. Not a good combination. Fortunately, I saved the best for last the coconut creation was very good. It was simply sweet with great texture.

As you might guess, we didn’t have a great experience, but we still had a nice time. We made the most of it. However, I’m still puzzled. It felt like I went to a completely different restaurant than the one I read about in review after review. It was indeed in a strip-mall, the atmosphere was non-descript, they do serve harmoniously, and will switch out napkins to coordinate with the color of your clothing – my expectations were met on all of those accounts. But I was under the impression that the food is the star, and frankly it should be, it’s what matters most. However, that’s were Rosemary’s fell short last night. I failed to see the value, and our meal was discounted. Despite it all, I’m glad we gave it a try. I only wish it were a better experience.

March 25, 2009

29 years!

For many women their 29th birthday is their last. From then on, they swear they only have anniversaries of their 29th birthday. I have no qualms about getting older. Heck, I've been looking forward to 55 since I had my first taste of Sun City living when we stayed with Frank's grandparents (after moving from Chicago). We were 23 at the time, we started the countdown... 32 years until we can live in a 55 and older community. Only 26 more to go now.

The weirdest thing about turning 29 is thinking about the things I set out to accomplish by the time 30 rolled around. What is it about 30, anyway? Why is that the deadline or turning point? I suppose when you're younger it seems like the age you should be stable and have your shit together. I'm proud to say, I'm happy where I am at. I met goals, I took risks, sure there were a few bumps in the road, but it got me here; and I learned a lot along the way. There's not much I'd change, if I had the chance to do it again.

I'm throwing out the road map, that plan from my teens doesn't expire at 30. Italy isn't going anywhere. We're shooting for 2011. I doubt I'll take any less from the experience if I see it then, instead of before my 30th birthday. I previously thought if we wanted kids, I wanted to birth them before 30. Well, that ain't happening. I'm no more ready for a family today than I was ten years ago. I'm ready to just enjoy today and we'll see what tomorrow brings. As long as there is tomorrow, there is no deadline.

March 24, 2009

What a weekend!

Saturday, I met the Vegas Message Board gang at Binion’s for the annual March Madness Poker Tournament. Believe it or not, I’ve never played in a live game or tournament before. Frank plays often, but I’ve never had much interest. While he plays I see the sights, take photos, play silly penny slots or chase after a royal on video poker. I figured there was no better way to pop my poker cherry than to play with the VMB crew. It was fun, I learned a bit before I busted out. The tournament took a record five hours to complete, I hung around until the end. In the meantime, I visited with everyone who also busted out. It was nice to put faces to familiar names and see others again. It’s been a long time since I made one of the planned events – life always seems to get in the way. I had a good time. Hopefully, I’ll make it to more get togethers in the future.

When I got home, Frank was wiped out from work. The preparation leading up to March Madness and the crowds kept him on his toes. He was ready for a break. He suggested we book Sunday night at the Signature. Earlier in the week, we were sent a promotion for $129/night which included a $50 resort credit. I checked availability for Sunday, it was available; I booked it. Gotta love a last minute staycation!

Frank worked Sunday morning but he was able to cut out at 12:30, he took the monorail and met me in the room after I checked it.

What can I say about the Signature that I haven’t said before? After five stays it’s still my favorite place to getaway. The accommodations feel like home, but more relaxed. Customer service is great. Although, this visit, valet and the bell desk were quite slow. You could tell they were understaffed and those scheduled did the best they could given the circumstances. Aside from that we had another flawless stay.

We ordered room service for lunch. We shared chicken tenders and a roast turkey club. Both were far better than I anticipated. We were told it’d be a 30 minute wait, but it took about half that time for the food to be delivered.

We admired the view, soaked in the tub, relaxed in bed, shared a bottle of wine and just enjoyed being together without distractions.

Frank made dinner reservations for Fiamma. This was our third visit. I inquired about the complimentary wine pairing available to locals. It was still available. Our waiter also informed us that entrees were two for one for locals. I was aware, but it was nice that he pointed that out. We opted to order off the menu this time since we’ve tried all the dishes offered on the tasting menu.

We snacked on Ciabatta bread with oil and vinegar while they prepared our appetizers.

The first course was paired with Prosecco. We shared an order of calamari – succulent, as always, and buffalo mozzarella with pesto and roasted tomatoes – fresh and delicious. A nice light accompaniment to the calamari.

For the second course, I was served a Sauvignon Blanc to go with Scallops served over Swiss chard and cannellini beans topped with speck. The scallops were perfectly seared, meaty, yet tender. It was a delicious dish. Frank chose the lamb shank served with gnocchi and wild mushrooms, his dish was paired with a Valpolicecella. The preparation was even better than Stack’s our previous favorite place for lamb shank. The au jus made the dish. The gnocchi were superb we wouldn’t hesitate ordering a gnocchi dish in the future.

Moscato was served with dessert. Frank had tiramisu – his favorite. It did not disappoint. I chose panna cotta with white balsamic honey,dried mission figs and marcona almonds. Pure bliss. It was light and not too sweet. It was a perfect end to a fabulous meal.

Service was exceptional. It was one of our top three dining experiences. Everything came together beautifully. We walked out for less than $100 – it was an absolute steal.

We hit the casino after dinner, we didn’t have much to spend, but I suggested Frank play his favorite machine. Some sort of dollar slot near Wolf Gang Puck’s restaurant. He can usually hit $100 payout with ease. A few spins in, he hit a hundred dollar jackpot – thank you. We took that money and played a few things with no luck. Then, we sought out dollar jacks or better. We played a bit, no nice hands per usual, but I did manage to hit a flush and a couple three of a kinds which left us with a $40 profit. That covered dinner (combined with the resort credit). We were pleased. We quit while we were ahead and retired to our suite.

We were reluctant to leave and be forced back into the real world, but next weekend we’re booked at the Palazzo. So, another night of relaxation and indulgence is less than a week away. Knowing that seemed to make reality easier to bear.

In case you missed Signature photos before, here are a few of the room and view. This visit we were in tower three on the 32nd floor.

From Signature

From Signature

From Signature

From Signature

March 19, 2009

Odd things that bring joy

It’s funny to think about the things that excite you as an adult. I remember, one year, in my teens, my mom asked for a drill bit set for mother’s day. I thought it was an odd request, but she asked for it so I got it for her. She still says it was one of the best gifts – she’s gotten a ton of use out of it. Heck, I've borrowed it numerous times. However, I never imagined getting excited over appliances or household items, but I do.

I’ve received all sorts of practical gifts from Frank over the years – gym shoes, blender, vacuum, bowling ball, cell phone, pizelle maker, etc. This year, for my birthday, I asked for a carpet cleaner. Sure, I’d rather get a massage and have a spa day, but when times are tough, practical is good. He told me to shop around and pick one out. I found a Hoover SteamVac on Amazon with great reviews. It seems to be just what I need so I went ahead and ordered it last week. It arrived today. You gotta love early birthday gifts. I’m anxious to try it.

The carpeting on the stairs leading to the second floor and in the bedrooms is a light berber. We’ve wore dirt into the heavy traffic areas. It’s well overdue for a good cleaning. I really hope this SteamVac doesn’t let me down.

March 17, 2009

Weekends are never long enough

We had fabulous weather this weekend. It’s just a shame it was over in a flash.

Saturday was a full day of shopping; no, not for shoes or purses, but guns and ammo. First, I did get my groceries out of the way. Then, I met Frank at work, and we headed over to Tropicana for the Crossroads Gun Show. We’re looking to get another gun; this one will be suited for me. The grip on the Glock is great for Frank, but I have much smaller hands so it’s not perfectly comfortable to handle. Last year, while in Phoenix, I really liked the Ruger .45. We know we’re in the market for a .45, but the Ruger’s I’ve handled in stores haven’t been a good fit. A while back, I found a Taurus .45 I liked a lot at Bass Pro-Shops, but I found that early on and I wanted to be sure we buy exactly what I want. We’ve kept looking, but I seem to keep falling back to the Taurus.

The Gun Show was a madhouse. We drove around for a good 10-15 minutes looking for a parking spot. Admission was $14; we thought that was a bit steep. We’ve never been to show before so maybe that’s the norm? We stopped by the few tables selling fire arms. I tried every .45 they had available and wouldn’t you know it, it was the Taurus I liked best. Prices for the guns weren’t great deals so I wasn’t pressed to buy on the spot. There’s no doubt I know what I want, but I want to hit the range and try out a couple models because I’m undecided on the barrel length. The only way to make that decision is to fire off a few rounds and get a feel for each type. So, there’s more research to be done.

After checking out the guns, we hit the two ammo vendors. They had more varieties than I ever knew existed. We knew we wanted to stock up on 9mm. It’s been hard to find in stores lately. Wal-Mart has the best prices around and they can’t keep a supply. I was told I have to call at 7am when they receive shipments and come down ASAP because they sell out so fast. I want ammo damn it, not a Wii. It shouldn’t be that complicated. Anyway, I spotted one 1000 round box, I hurried up and grabbed it. Good thing I did, it was the last box. Since we know we’re going to pick up a .45 in the near future we went ahead and bought rounds for that, as well. We were a few hundred dollars lighter, but it was a good price and it’ll be nice not having to track down ammo; we’re stocked for quite awhile.

We went around to the other tables, we bought a Glock holster for $20, but we didn’t find anything else we were in the market for. I was surprised by the number of tables selling food – jerky, nuts, candy, trinkets, and whatnot. I didn’t expect that, I thought there would be more vendors selling weapons and ammo, but the majority was accessories and junk, in my opinion, anyway.

Sunday, we never went off-roading. Instead, Frank worked on the Jimmy and I tackled another landscaping project in the backyard. I filled another six garbage bags of leaves and trimmings. There’s still much more to do. The work is endless, I tell ya. Unfortunately, Frank had no luck with the Jimmy, he decided to rewire the entire electrical system, but he ran into troubles and the truck won’t even start at this point. Our friend, Shane, is a mechanic whiz; luckily he’ll be visiting in April. He and Frank should be able to get it in tip-top shape in a few weeks. It’s just a shame it’s not operational, the weather is just perfect for a day in the desert – rock climbing and running trails. In the meantime, we can do stock trails with the Suburban. So, all is not lost. I’m just hoping Frank isn’t stuck working all weekend, because of March Madness. We’ll see how that pans out.

March 16, 2009

Short on time

So, instead of posting about my weekend, I'll share a recipe. I tried it out on Friday night. It came together very easily and it was quite tasty. A definite winner in my book, Frank enjoyed it, as well. I served it over rice with a side of asparagus.

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Vinegar Pan Sauce

1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 (5-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

Combine broth, vinegar, and honey.

Melt butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat.

While butter melts, sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess flour.

Increase heat to medium-high; heat 2 minutes or until the butter turns golden brown. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add shallots, and sauté 30 seconds. Add the broth mixture, scraping to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 3 minutes). Serve sauce over chicken.

Nutritional Information
Calories:269 (27% from fat) Fat:8.1g (sat 2.7g,mono 2g,poly 2.5g) Protein:34g Carbohydrate:13.1g Fiber:0.2g Cholesterol:90mg Iron:1.7mg Sodium:331mg Calcium:29mg

March 13, 2009

Successful First Run

Yesterday, Frank got home from work early, around 5:30, he told me to get dressed - we were going shooting. We took the Surburban out on it's voyage run. What'd it take? 2 days to break it in? Heh. It handled the trails like a champ. We weren't sure how it'd do on the steep trails and drop-offs because of the length, fortunately we had no issues. We found a clear area to shoot and got set up.

From Drop Box

He fired a few shots on the shotgun, and then we took turns with the Glock. I was rusty at first not having been out, since Bob was in town back in Dec. But after my first clip, I was back. It felt good to enjoy the fresh air, tranquility of the desert and release some aggression with a few clips. The sun began to set, so we packed up, and headed back to reality.

From Drop Box

I drove the Suburban back on the way home. It handles like a car, I like that. Driving the Jimmy is a work out, between the rear lockers and the lack of power steering. Backing up will take time to get used to, I've never drove such a long vehicle before. I'll learn...

It sounds like, Sunday, we'll head out to Wheeler's Pass or maybe Death Valley. Either will be great.

March 12, 2009

Upcoming fun stuff

I have a birthday coming up and our anniversary is right around the corner. Both are good excuses to enjoy some tasty food, splurge a little and treat ourselves.

I've decided I'd like to finally try Rosemary's Restaurant for my birthday dinner. It falls on a Wednesday, which happens to be ladies night, so I can get my meal at half price. I love a deal. Plus, for years now, I've heard wonderful things about Rosemary's. However, for whatever reason, we've opted to hit top-rated restaurants on the strip vs. the one that's only minutes away. Needless to say, it's about time we try it. I hope we find it as delicious as everyone else.

The original idea was to dine at Brand inside Monte Carlo for our anniversary. We've been wanting to check it out since it opened, but it seems something else is always coming up and we keep putting it on the back burner. This time is no different.

Yesterday, I received a promotion from Palazzo for $109/night with $25 free slot play and $10 off at Aquaknox, along with other goodies. I ran it by Frank and we booked a night at the end of the month to celebrate both occasions. We figured we'd take the opportunity and try Aquaknox, as well. Co-workers have sung praises about their seafood; although, I've read mixed reviews on-line I'd still like to give it a shot. I'm curious to see how it compares to Seablue at MGM.

We'll use our reward certificates and try Brand another time.

I hope the next two weeks fly by. I am hungry already.

March 11, 2009

Pork Chops with Carolina Rub

I made these pork chops with a side of grilled asparagus. The chops were juicy and they had a nice smoked-BBQ taste. Frank was pleasantly surprised how well they turned out.

1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 (4-ounce) center-cut pork loin chops
Cooking spray
1/4 cup barbecue sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's)

Prepare grill.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub pork with spice mixture; let stand 10 minutes.

Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 4 minutes. Turn pork; grill 2 minutes. Brush each chop with 1 tablespoon sauce, and grill 2 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.

Nutritional Information
Calories:185 (34% from fat)
Fat:6.9g (sat 2.4g,mono 3g,poly 0.7g) Protein:24.6g Carbohydrate:5g Fiber:0.8g Cholesterol:65mg Iron:1.1mg Sodium:477mg Calcium:35mg

Unicorn found

The search wasn't nearly as long or as daunting as I thought it might be. Frank found his unicorn, or maybe it's more of a stallion. In any case, we bought a 1999 GMC Suburban 2500 with a V8 454/7.4 Liter engine, 4WD, and towing package. It's a bit worn, but the miles are low for it's age, it runs like a champ and it has a ton of power, which we'll definitely put to the test.

From House photos

Frank got it smogged and registered yesterday. It only took three hours at the DMV. Yeah, it's laughable. Last week, he spent nearly five hours waiting to turn in the Monte Carlo plates, change the address and renew registration on the Jimmy. Too bad we didn't have the Suburban at that time, it could've saved him a few hours of his life.

We've done a fine job of filling up the drive way. It used to appear large, but now it's pretty tight with the two trucks. There's a little canal left for me to put out/into the garage.

From House photos

Now, we need to save up and shop for a trailer. Then, we'll be ready for road trips. Moab here we come.

March 10, 2009

Time in the kitchen

These are a few things I whipped up this past weekend:

Mexican Eggs

From baking/cooking

Easy as can be, just scramble desired number of eggs and right before they're done add salsa and blend together.

I make my own salsa. Loose recipe follows below, since so much is done by taste.

1 28 oz of canned whole tomatoes, drained
1 large white onion
2 small jalapeno peppers

In a food chopper or processor, lightly chop whole tomatoes, add to large bowl. Do the same for the onion. cilantro and peppers (if you don't like heat, remove membrane and seeds), add garlic (I used the refrigerated chopped garlic) and salt to taste. Mix all ingredients well in the large bowl and let sit to allow the flavors to blend before eating.

Pecan Crusted Chicken and Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

From baking/cooking

The chicken is tried and true, I've made it three times before. However, this was my first time trying the brussels sprout recipe from Cooking Light. I thought they came out alright. The leaves cooked down and they were kinda limp, I prefer my sprouts to have much more bite.

Lemon Lush

From baking/cooking

1 container of cool whip
1 pkg cream cheese
4 c of milk
3 sm pkg of instant lemon pudding
1 1/2 c flour
1 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter

Mix butter and flour together and spread into a non-stick 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Mix cream cheese, 1 cup of cool whip and powdered sugar together. Spread on top of cooled crust. Beat pudding mix and milk together until it starts to thicken, pour over cream cheese layer.

Cover with rest of cool whip. Chill until ready to serve.

I halved the recipe and used non/low-fat and sugar free products where available. I had trouble with the crust. I couldn't get the cream cheese to spread without the crust falling apart. Also, the lemon pudding had a fake taste to it. Not sure if that's because of the artificial sweetner in the sugar-free variety. Overall, I thought it was ok.

March 9, 2009

Just another productive weekend

Frank's back home, I picked him up at the airport last night just before midnight. He was thrilled to be home. There's nothing like leaving Las Vegas to make you miss it. He complained about the weather, but he got no sympathy from me, I dealt with below freezing temps, snow and wind. All he had was 40's and 50's with thunderstorms. He fails to see it could've been worse. He gorged on all kinds of good food. He was able to eat all of our favorites. I'm jealous he went to Giordano's, he also ate at White Castle four times. Now that's a bit much, as much as I enjoy a double jalapeno cheeseburger - I have no envy there. It was the chicken rings he couldn't get enough of; I can take 'em or leave 'em. The honey mustard, though, that's good stuff.

I managed to get a lot accomplished while he was away and still set time aside for myself. I did some reading, clothes shopping, and looked for shoes, too, but that search continues. I also did the usual routine cleaning and laundry.

On Saturday, I spent the day with my mom, by her place, which gave me the chance to meet Cha-Cha. Her newest horse, she's smaller than her other two.

From Mom's house

Also saw that her duck has been busy laying eggs

From Mom's house

After two rounds of shot therapy, my mom's back is still causing her grief. So, I helped her run some errands. We had dinner and she suggested we rent Mamma Mia, since we never got around to seeing the show before it closed at Mandalay Bay. We were supposed to go for my birthday gift, last year. I wasn't thrilled by the movie so maybe I wasn't missing out by not seeing the musical.

Sunday, I worked on the backyard. I filled two garbage cans and five trash bags with clippings and leaves. I tackled the side yard, which was never touched last year. Vines had grown wild, there is a garden work bench there that was left by the old owners, you'd never guess it were there because it was covered in vines. Now, it can be seen clear as day. I also cleaned out all the flowerbeds and pots, pruned the rose bushes, trimmed the palms and oleander. It was a productive day. It helped that the sun didn't set until 6:00. I love the longer days, I don't mind springing forward one bit. Although, it'd be nice if we didn't observe daylight savings time at all. It's such a pain to adjust the time on every clock at home, at work and in the car.

March 6, 2009


I took a stroll down memory lane, last night. I dug out old photos and scanned them. It is amazing how one little picture can spark such vivid memories.

My 5th birthday

From Memories

Most kids would want to go to Chuck E Cheese, McDonald's or maybe get pizza. But not me, no, I wanted Jardine's, an all you-can-eat restaurant that served peeled shrimp. Even after gorging myself on shrimp I had room for leftover birthday cake.

A day at the Medieval Fair.

From Memories

My grandparents took me, I rode a camel and elephant. The rainbow facepaint was just the topper for a great day.

Hating doctor visits.

From Memories

Growing up I spent quite a bit of time in doctor's offices and hospitals. It was pretty traumatic for me, anytime I had an appointment, I'd run and hide in my parent's closet and hope I wouldn't be found. In hindsight, I should've found a better hiding place.

Fun times with my cousins.

From Memories

I was an only child for seven years, during that time, my cousins kept me company. We were always hamming it up. We put on "shows" at every family gathering. Our dance routine to Thriller was probably my favorite.

My Cabbage Patch Kids tent.

From Memories

I loved to hide out in my tent. There were little pockets sewn on the inside. That was my secret hiding place.

Visits to the city.

From Memories

Buckingham fountain has been my favorite landmark in Chicago as long as I can remember. I loved to watch the colors change at night. Sometimes, if I were good, I'd get a glow necklace from one of the vendors walking about. It was like I got to take a piece of the fountain with me.

The old Comiskey Park.

From Memories

The new park was nice, but it wasn't the same. I still can't bring myself to call it US Cellular Field, it'll forever be Comiskey to me.

Halloween, my favorite holiday.

From Memories

I think this was 1995. For a few years, we held a haunted house in our garage. People came from all over to see it. I dressed up and went trick or treating every year. 1998 was the first year I didn't go. After that the holiday wasn't as fun anymore.

Las Vegas, 1997.

From Memories

Look, Lake Mead has water. Wish I could see it that full again. Frank and I fell for sin city on that trip. We didn't know how or when, but we knew one day we'd call it home.

Las Vegas, 2001.

From Memories

Finally of age! We could drink and gamble!! But we still took time out to watch the fountains. I never would have guessed two years later Frank would propose to me in that very spot.

Las Vegas, 2002.

From Memories

We made a handful of trips by then, we knew the city in and out. We escaped the chaos and spent time under the blistering sun at Red Rock Canyon. Little did I know we'd be Las Vegas residents one year later.

Chris and Karen's wedding.

From Memories

They were the first of our friend's to have babies and get married. We both stood up at their wedding and we had the best time. Shameful to have that cigarette in hand. Boy am I glad I kicked that habit.

It's fun to look back. And I've only scratched the surface there's so many more photos and memories...