May 22, 2009

Almost time

It looks like I'm going to get a head start on my vacation. Word going round is that we'll be closing in an hour-thirty. No complaints from me.

I am ready to go.

Hope everyone has a great long weekend. Frank and I will be visiting Anaheim and San Diego. A week away from the daily grind will do us good. I should have photos and details to share next Monday.

I'll leave you with a Spicy Pork Chop recipe we tried this week. It was pretty good, but we didn't think it was spicy I even added more sriracha than called for, but it was still mild.

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
8 center cut pork chops

In a large resealable bag, mix together the soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, chili sauce, and garlic powder. Place the pork chops into the bag, carefully seal the bag, and marinate for 6-12 hours in the refrigerator. Turn the bag over about halfway through.

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.

Arrange pork chops on the lightly oiled grate, and cook 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

May 20, 2009

Allergic to Las Vegas?

Here, I always thought Vegas was supposed to be good for you - lack of vegetation and all. I suffered from seasonal allergies while living in Chicago, and I regularly got sinus infections. I never saw a specialist, I was satisfied with my doctor prescribing me antibiotics, when needed, and taking allergy meds to relieve symptoms. I thought maybe living in Vegas would alleviate my allergies, but I learned a few months after living here that that wasn't the case. As it turned out, in Vegas, I suffer from allergies in spring and fall. Usually, April and September are the worst months for me. The rest of the year I get by alright without medication, and once I quit smoking sinus infections rarely occured. I assumed I had my allergies pretty well under control.

That is until this month. I spent a week in misery, before my boss insisted that I see an Otolaryngologist. By then, I was feeling quite a bit better, so I was surprised when the doctor told me my swelling and congestion were so severe. I returned to see him today, this visit, swelling had reduced and he was able to perform a nasal endoscopy. However, the swelling was still too severe to see my sinuses. After talking about my symptoms I realized that it's very likely I suffer from allergies far more often than I even thought. It seems my symptoms are most severe during certain months and on windy days. Next course of action is a CT Scan. I'll have that done in the next couple weeks. I'll also meet with an Allergist in June to have testing done to see what I'm allergic specifically to in Las Vegas. Based on those results I could start Immunotherapy. I'm terrified of needles so I'm not sure that regular (self) injections are the best course of treatment. But if it could mean feeling great year round it is worth consideration, however, I'll wait to see results of my upcoming tests before making any decisions.

I talked with the Allergist's nurse after my visit with the doctor. She said doctors used to encourage their patients to move to Vegas for allergen relief, and it used to help. But Vegas has seen such tremendous growth over the years it's become a breeding ground for all kinds of allergens: non-native plants, pollution, mold, dust mites, construction, etc. She claimed we are number two for the worst allergies, and Phoenix is number one. I did my own research today and I couldn't turn up that same information. Instead, it seems Las Vegas takes 20-30th place on most lists for seasonal allergies. I found a couple reports that indicate Las Vegas is the 7th worst city for allergens. In any case, Vegas isn't the cure for allergies no matter what anyone might think or been told. If you had allergies before living here, chances are good you'll still have them.

May 19, 2009

Dinner and dessert

I tried out two new recipes this week, a kabob marinade and one for brownies. I used NY strip for the kabobs and I let the steak marinate overnight. The kabobs were a success. The brownies, on the other hand, were dry, despite having a nice texture and decent taste. A layer of frosting helped, but they were still a disappointment. Perhaps, I was heavy handed with the flour? I don't think so, but I don't know where else I went wrong.

One Bowl Cocoa Powder Brownies

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13×9 inch metal pan.

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar, then whisk in the cocoa powder, followed by the vanilla extract and eggs. When mixture is smooth, add salt and baking powder and whisk thoroughly, breaking up any lumps in baking powder and taking care that it is thoroughly distributed. Scrape sides of bowl and stir (do not beat) in the flour. Pour into pan and spread to edges.

Bake on center rack of oven for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely before slicing.

Kabob Marinade

1 cup canola oil
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ground black pepper, and garlic. Mix well, and add your favorite 2 lbs of meat. Seal the bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours.

Latest blooms

Passion Flower

From flowers

And this water lily sprouted up, we never saw it flower last year.

From flowers

May 18, 2009

Triple digits

Yesterday was the hottest day so far this year, what do we do? Yardwork. Frank trimmed all the palms and trees in the backyard. I was the clean up crew. We have a large pile for the garbagemen to take and another massive pile on the side of the house that we'll slowly put out to the curb each garbage day. We can't overwhelm the garbagemen, otherwise they won't take any of it. The trees look taller and nicely manicured. After another day or two tending to the vines and fallen leaves, the backyard will be set for summer.

Even though we worked all day it still felt like a leisurely Sunday. We dipped in the pool regularly to keep cool. The water temp has been great, we've been able to maintain 82 degrees with ease.

It definitely feels like summer has arrived. And I love it! We've been grilling everyday. The other night we took the Firebird out and cruised out to the Hoover Dam. That bypass project is extraordinary. Between that and the dam, both are sights to be seen. The drive was great, there's nothing better than cruising with the t-tops off and feeling that warm breeze across your face.

On the way back from the dam we visited an old friend, the Skyline Casino on Boulder Hwy. Before we moved, every vacation we'd hit the Skyline for dinner. They had the best deal in town, a 20oz porterhouse steak with baked potato and salad bar for $4.95. They had the best dinner rolls, too. I can't tell you how often Frank and I sat in our Lansing (IL) apartment wishing we could dig into the Skyline steak dinner. I think we even booked a trip or two as a result. Then, after we moved, we drove clear across town regularly for that steak special, the price went up a couple bucks over the years, but it was still a great deal. We'd hang out while waiting for a table or after dinner and play $2 blackjack or try our luck at slots and video poker. Usually we'd break even. It was surefire goodtime. About a year later, the casino started sprucing itself up, I think it changed hands... the porterhouse special was replaced by some shitty hunk'o meat and they raised the price another dollar. The value was gone. It was no longer worth the drive clear across town.

It's been four or five years since we've been back. Frank convinced me to stop in and play. We walked through the doors and not a thing has changed. Smoke still filled the air, coins, yes, actual coins dropped out of machines - it was music to my ears. Full pay video poker was plentiful and there was one $3 blackjack table. Frank hit four of a kind on Double Bonus, his jackpot dropped one quarter at a time filling the slot bucket. He didn't even need a hopper fill, he was a winner twofold. Next we played Joker Poker with the double up option. We LOVED the double up feature, years ago, we played for hours at Treasure Island and Sahara. The extra gamble was always fun. All in all, we had an enjoyable time visiting our old friend. It reminded me of a time when things were simpler - maybe the were, maybe they weren't, but it was nice to recall old memories; and see not everything changes, although, it's too bad that 20oz porterhouse dinner isn't still around.

From the Skyline we drove up to the Eastside Cannery. It was one casino opening we missed since living here. We're not out that way often so I suggested we check it out. Frank made bets for the Preakness then we tried our luck with slots, video poker and keno. There was no luck to be had, in fact I witnessed the poorest luck I've ever seen. Frank sat down at a penny slot, he played ten dollars and barely hit any paylines, eventually losing it all. Then, he moved to the machine right next to it and spun over and over again without a single win until his ten dollars was gone. Usually they throw you bone and you'll get at least one bet back, but not this time, he won zero credits. We lost another $20 playing keno and then hightailed it out of there. The casino is just like the original Cannery. Just another casino, it doesn't offer anything I can't get close to home. The only chance we'd go back was to cash in Frank's Preakness bets, but those tickets were losers. We won't be back.

We headed back home after that, it wasn't long before the grumpiness from our losses was replaced with joy from that warm breeze gently dancing across our faces as we passed the neon and city lights. Oh yeah, summer has arrived.

May 14, 2009

I'm a mess

Even though I started feeling a bit better yesterday I kept my appointment with the ENT doc. I still have congestion and I have discomfort in my right ear. The doctor took one look at me and couldn't see much of anything, I was too swollen and too congested. Also, it turns out I'm experiencing hearing loss it's likely it'll return once I clear up. I was given a handful of prescriptions and was told to come back in a week. Hopefully, then, he'll be able to take a look, and we'll go from there.

No wonder I was so miserable the last week. The fun couldn't end there, no, I was left with a parting gift, too.

His office is by UMC; parking is minimal, I decided to use the metered parking - I had enough quarters for an hour, I figured that would be enough. There was a long wait and my hearing test took up time I hadn't counted on, I was 15-minutes late. What should've cost a quarter is costing me twenty bucks. Yep, I got a parking citation. City of Las Vegas wastes no time when it comes to making a dime.

You bet your ass I'm loading that meter up next week. I'd rather fork over an extra fifty cents than give the city another Jackson.

May 13, 2009

Hoover Dam Bypass

From hoover dam bypass

I haven't been by the dam in over a year, but a co-worker shared this photo with me today. I couldn't believe how far they've come. Impressive!


Courtesy of

Check it out, there are some real treasures.

May 12, 2009

Quite the trooper

Sunday we went off-roading with a few others; we've run Coyote Falls a few times before, but this time Frank made the S-curve without a tow strap. We were proud!

From coyotedevil

From coyotedevil

We bent the bumper this time.

From coyotedevil

We busted our shock at the same place as last time. The rock in front of this Jeep is the culprit.

From coyotedevil

Frank removed the shock and we continued onto another trail, Devil's Canyon. We've never done it before. All I heard, it was a short trail with a GREAT view. I missed the part about it being downright gnarly.

Heading to the trail

From coyotedevil

From coyotedevil

Yeah, this is the way

From coyotedevil

Frank had a challenging time making it up the first ridge, but he managed.

From coyotedevil

Onto the canyon

From coyotedevil

Crazy, I tell you.

From coyotedevil

From coyotedevil

From coyotedevil

We keep on climbing

From coyotedevil

Until we get a flat, punctured the side wall. Then, to make matters worse, we busted our U joint.

From coyotedevil

What next? Pose until a plan is formed, he's isn't a small guy, either, he stands about 6'.

From coyotedevil

We get ourselves down, and use a tow strap to get us to a semi-decent place to change the tire, and assess the damage.

Broken U joint

From coyotedevil

Punctured tire

From coyotedevil

Conditions were terrible at this point. It was the hottest part of the day, full sun, about 100 degrees, and we were running low on water. Not just us, but the whole group. The tire was a bitch to change because of the angle, height, whatever, you name it. They got it done, though. Since we busted the U joint we no longer had 4WD, we had to hope and pray 2WD and help of the winch would be enough to get us out. It took a lot, of everything, but we made it out. No one passed out, thank goodness! We relied on melted ice, and a gallon of water I stashed in the Jimmy, months ago.

We finally got to the top! Hooray!

From coyotedevil

We'd have to go a little further to get the great view

From coyotedevil

From coyotedevil

Despite the hassle, the near heat exhaustion and dehydration, and hundreds of dollars needed in repairs it was one helluva great time.

Can't wait to do it again.

May 11, 2009

Still sick, no longer worried

Thankfully, Nicky improved and he was sent home late Friday. He was still experiencing tremors, but they believed they'd wear off. They continued through Saturday, but he was 100% back to normal on Sunday. The best Mother's Day gift ever.

Allergies are still kicking my ass. I think my backyard is killing me. Gardenia recently bloomed and I've been miserable since then. I did get relief yesterday in the desert while we were off-roading. As soon as I got home, I started back up like a leaky faucet.

We celebrated Mother's Day a day early with my mom. I didn't do too bad in Pahrump, but the hay and animals didn't do me any favors. We had dinner at Mountain View Casino and stayed to play for a bit. I lost at everything, but keno. For whatever reason Caveman Keno has been incredibly generous to me. I've played it three times and made money each time, this time, I cashed out a cool $50 by hitting four numbers with twenty cents bet.

Yesterday, we had an interesting day off-roading. We ran two trails, Coyote Falls and Devils Canyon. I'll get to those details later today or possibly tomorrow.

May 7, 2009

Worried and sick

My nephew, Nicky, is in the hospital. He possibly took Jeff's stepbother's ADHD medicine on Tuesday (he mistakenly left his pill case in Nicky's reach). My sister took him to the ER. They ran an EKG and observed him for a few hours and then sent him home. Yesterday, he was not himself and had slept all but an hour or two of the last twenty-four. He was having trouble swallowing and drooling a bunch. They went back to the ER. The asshats there were still not giving him adquate care. His condition was worsening, he was showing signs of dehydration, his heart rate was high and he needed oxygen. Bloodwork and two EKG returned normal before they ran a toxicology report. I'm no doctor but I'd think they would've been the first thing done. I wait patiently for updates, but I haven't heard results of that or other tests. Fortunately, though, he has improved today. He grasped my sister's fingers, asked for cereal and was able to recite what all the animals say and sing, You Are My Sunshine. Amy was so relieved to see signs of improvement, Nicky is finally beginning to act like himself, but he's still not 100%. They plan to keep him a few more days. I pray the worst is behind them. I can't imagine how scary it must be.

Tuesday my allergies started to act up, they only got worse yesterday, and now today, I'm pretty miserable. I can't breathe, yet my eyes and nose run like crazy. I hope it passes soon.

In lighter events, we saw the San Gennaro Feast Fireworks last night. They do two display each year, one in May and the other in September. It's always a nice display.

San Gennaro Feast Fireworks from kellee on Vimeo.

May 6, 2009

Morels at Palazzo

Last week, my company was awarded a dinner at Maggiano's for exceeding our 2008 sales goal with one of our suppliers. Dinner was very good. I really like the family style menus, even though their regular menu fails to thrill me. At any rate, we were all given gift cards in appreciation for our efforts. What do I do with free money? Eat, of course. I suggested to Frank that we should try Morels for dinner since we had such an enjoyable lunch there before. He was game.

Our reservation was at 8:00 on Sunday. The weather was perfect so we sat on the patio. We had a nice view of the strip, I could see the Pirate Show at TI and the Volcano at Mirage from my seat. We started with warm bread, butter with sea salt and olive tapenade; our cheese course followed.

We had a lull because they were sold out of two of the three cheese we selected, we had to chose two new ones. Said and done, we sampled Majoreo from Spain, Camembert from NY and 10 year aged Cheddar from WI. We didn't like the Camembert. We've had other varieties before, it seems we just haven't acquired the taste for it. Now we know to avoid it in the future. The other two were excellent.

Next, Frank had French Onion soup, he shared a few bites with me. It was just as good as last time. Then, we moved on to the tableside Caesar. It was pretty good, just not as tasty as the one served at Delmonico. For the main course, Frank had Rack of Lamb and I had Halibut. Both were excellent and prepared to perfection. We wrapped up the meal with a peanut butter and chocolate dome for dessert. It was scrumptious.

Our server was new, a bit akward, slow and obnoxious at times, but service was standard. However, it was a bit of a disappointment since service was stellar on our last visit. Dinner was pricey, $172 before tip, but it was enjoyable and the patio seating was great for such a beautiful evening. Overall, Morels has won us over with its tasty eats and excellent cheese selection. I have no doubt we'll be anxious to return again soon.

May 5, 2009

Potato Ridge

We normally do Potato Ridge from Red Rock to Lovell Canyon, this time we started at Lovell. Since we went out with Vegas Valley 4-Wheelers this was also the first time we were able run many of the rock gardens/washes. We stopped near the end to BBQ, visit and take in the beautiful views. It was a great time!

First rock garden

From Potato Ridge

First obstacle in the second rock garden

From Potato Ridge

From Potato Ridge

Another rock garden

From Potato Ridge

From Potato Ridge

The unimog could go places the rest of us can't

From Potato Ridge

Nice to see a hummer offroad as intended instead of just being a grocery getter.

From Potato Ridge

It suffered damage in one of the rock gardens, though.

From Potato Ridge

So did this Jeep Cherokee

From Potato Ridge

Our biggest run yet 19 rigs, mostly Jeeps

From Potato Ridge

Our damage from the rock gardens

From Potato Ridge

and a bent tierod

From Potato Ridge

This really is the way, the fun way, anyway...

From Potato Ridge

Looking back at the Jeep behind us

From Potato Ridge

From Potato Ridge

From Potato Ridge

From Potato Ridge

Scenic views

From Potato Ridge

From Potato Ridge

Pretty Purple bush beginning to bloom

From Potato Ridge

Parked for BBQ

From Potato Ridge

More scenery

From Potato Ridge

From Potato Ridge

May 4, 2009

Summertime! And the living is easy

Grilling, margaritas, swimming, offroading, fine dining outdoors... Can life get any sweeter?

We had a great taste of summer this weekend. The weather was perfect. The pool was 75 degrees Sunday afternoon, Frank jumped in, if he heated it today, I'll get my feet wet after work. We had a great day with Vegas Valley 4 Wheelers running Potato Ridge. We were able to conquer rock gardens that we can't do solo. I'll share those photos tomorrow. Along with dinner details, we went back to Morels at Palazzo for a wonderful meal on their patio overlooking the strip.

Friday we went to M Resort to bet on the derby. We hung around, played video poker, blackjack, had a few drinks and I tried my luck on Cavemen Keno on our way out. I had two nice wins that brought me back to even. Frank lost, but we had fun. I Want Revenge scratched so we need return and get our money back. Another visit to M, ok, twist my arm... We love M, I hope things over there don't change - Frank has a theory that everyone is friendly and customer service is great because they're all on probation. I guess we'll find out in a couple months.

Saturday, we fired up our new grill. It provides us with much more room and a even heating surface. We'll get good use out of it this summer.

From House photos

It was an ordeal getting it, but in the end it all worked out. See, we originally bought a grill from Sears. They had free assembly so we opted to do that. A few days later, they called to say the grill was available for pick up. We went to get it, only to find they tried to pawn off the floor model. We were under the impression the grill would be new, we did not want to pay full sales price for a grill that was dirty and dinged. We met with a manager who offered us 10%. We wanted more, she didn't budge so we returned it. We headed right over to Lowe's. They had a grill on clearance outside, it was just what we needed, actually larger than the one at Sears. We asked to have it marked down because it had been outside for sometime. They took $55 off the price. Sold! It wouldn't fit in the Suburban fully assembled. We considered rolling it home, we're close. But the guy helping us didn't skip a beat, he wheeled it over to a pay by the hour truck that was getting loaded for the morning, and they loaded the grill and followed us home, unloaded it and they were on their way. We were happy as can be. Talk about Customer Service, Sears should take note. We'll gladly shop at Lowes in the future. We tend to buy things there every now and again, but now they've earned priority in our home improvement shopping.

We also broke in a new blender I purchased from Amazon. After seven or eight years our old one died. I shopped around for the most powerful one I could turn up, an Oster Professional Series.

Frank's margaritas just got better. Amazing what can be done with a proper tool. This blender finely crushes ice in seconds. I have a feeling, it too, will get plenty of use this summer.