June 30, 2010

Back on the Ranch

Well, mom is getting settled. It's only taken 6 weeks or so. We went out again this weekend for a visit. No moving, no unpacking, no landscaping - just a visit. It was nice! I took the opportunity to toy with the new slr a bit more. She has plenty to photograph on her two acres.

For my second go at it, said and done, I think I captured some good shots. I quickly learned Aperture Priority does not work well with animals, apparently Shutter Priority works far better for anything in motion. Had issue with subjects being too dark, and I'd blow out the background trying to compensate. I tried to get help from exposure compensation, but adjusting ISO seemed to help most. It's all trial and error at this point. With any luck I'll have a pretty good feel for the camera by the time our Seattle/Vancouver trip rolls around. It'll be up to me to get more practice. Only a few weeks left.

The goats are happy with their new digs.

Cha Cha and Miracle are feeling at home, too.

Cha Cha is a sweetheart

Miracle is known as the bitch

I'll post more tomorrow.

June 29, 2010

All-American Bar & Grille

Saturday night Frank and I went to Rio to check out the World Series of Poker. It seemed less chaotic and more organized than ever before. It's held in a much larger space this year so I imagine the added room calms it down quite a bit. Afterwards, we ate at Rio's All-American Bar & Grille. We had crabcakes and French onion soup. My cakes were pretty bad, Frank made the better choice with the soup. He ordered ribs and I had a filet. Again, he chose better. The ribs were actually really good. My filet was a decent cut, it just lacked seasoning. $78 was the total damage. Service was better than expected. I can't say I'd seek the place out, but I would order the ribs ($20 full rack) again if I found myself there.

June 28, 2010

I'm Over the HRH Pool

Friday was Slightly Stoopid over at the Hard Rock Hotel Pool. Unlike Pepper, there were no long lines. We were able to walk straight into the pool area since we had tickets this time. The Expendables were on stage. We met up with one of Frank's friends, grabbed beers ($9 for bud light, craziness) and watched the show. People we passing us like crazy. The band was good. After they wrapped we joined Josh and his friends (a big group were in from SoCal) on the otherside of the stage we were situated between the pool and the sound/light crew. Apparently this was a hallway. Hundreds of people passed us. I ended up moving into the planter because I was tired of getting trampled by passerbys. Meanwhile, this wasted chick was making out with with a guy she met right in front of me. They were dry humping like mad. I wanted him to bust a nut just to be done with it. They went off to the bathroom and I never saw them again.

Finally, Slightly Stoopid took the stage. I thought the crowd would calm down and stay put (pot smokers are known to be pretty chill, right?) but nope. They were the passing us left and right and falling all over. We kept moving and they kept passing. It was RIDICULOUS! Frank and I ended up moving back against the edge of the pool. People were still passing us, in front, behind, left and right. Insanity. It was like a fucking ant colony. I wanted them to toke up and calm the fuck down, but it never happened. We made the most of it, and tried to enjoy the show in between people bouncing off of us, falling all over and using us as handrails. Slighly Stoopid didn't play much that I knew. I really like their songs with great guitar, they played one, Collie Man, at the end. It was mainly wind instruments all night, like their guitarist didn't show or something. It was a good show, but I thought it would be better. And I'm completely over the HRH pool venue. There are very few bands that could convince me to return. The layout is piss-poor. There is only one bathroom and it's right beside the stage. That's why there was a constant stream of people passing us. Yeah, I'm over it!

June 25, 2010

Ahh! Friday!

It's been a long week. I'm anxious to get the weekend started. Other than the Slightly Stoopid show tonight we have no real plans. That's ok by me, it's been a hectic six weeks.

Mike is back in Chicago, but before he left he managed to score a bonus day in Vegas because his flight was cancelled due to tornado sightings in Chicago. Nicky called me yesterday to tell me "the bad storms are gone". They scared him a bit. He and Amy had to take shelter. Now he's learned all about tornadoes. He's not a fan. Just another reason for them to move to Nevada. I doubt that will happen, but I should be seeing Amy and Nicky soon. She's planning a trip for September since she turns 21 in August. Depending on what happens with my dad's job, he may be joining them, as well. If that's the case Mike and Jeff will come, too and they'll drive out in my dad's conversion van. It will be nice if it pans out. My dad has only visted once, that was during our wedding. If it doesn't, Amy and Nicky plan to fly out. I can't wait to see them.

Since it's Friday that means I have articles to share with you. You get two today because I forgot to share one last week. Learn about Las Vegas' only pick and pay orchard and check out my thoughts about tapas at Julian Serrano inside Aria.

Vegas Values: Pick and Pay

Vegas Values: Julian Serrano

June 23, 2010

Nickel Beers!

Yesterday was the second day of summer (my favorite time of the year) and it was Mike's last night in Vegas. There was no better place to celebrate and say farewell that Nickel Beer Night at Todd English P.U.B. Mike and Frank went two weeks ago and had a great time. A repeat was necessary.

We got there 9:18 so there was a line out the door. It moved pretty quick. We camped out at the end of the bar and eventually claimed a spot as ours. We ordered 15 beers to get started. 75 cents. We ordered 20 more ($1.00) and finished with 5 for a whopping quarter. Grand total for 40 beers? Two bucks.

We played a drinking game with the kids next to us. Minesweeper, you basically drink faster than a penny spins. If you don't you still drink. Nice game. We made friends with a few other groups most people at the bar were locals. One crew of three came in confused why we ordered so many beers in small cups. Nickel PBR, baby. They had no idea, they came for the 7 second challenge. Chug a pint in less than 7 sec and it's free. Frank bet the guy $2 he could do it. He did it. Double or nothing? He took the bet and did it again. A newcomer got in the action and bet him $1 he couldn't do a third, but he did it. So, the guy got 3 free pints and made $5 he was quite pleased. His buddy gave it a try and failed. It was a riot.

Kegs ran out about 10:45. We took our cup tower and walked Crystals the super high-end mall at CityCenter. Yes, we classed up the joint. I took a bunch of photos. We were walking back to Aria and found a perfectly good park bench to sit on outside the P.U.B. it was prime people watching. Mike got all sorts of looks from passerbys about his tower so he heckled back. He told a 70 year old guy he doesn't need viagra. The guy and his wife had a good laugh. Frank smacked half his cup stack out from Mike's hands and cups scattered everywhere. Security came over. Mike was reprimanded by the guy playing the bad cop, the good cop teased us and offered to throw away the rest of our cup tower and then said he'd see us next week. It was a trip.

First round

Second round

The guy in the plaid was doing the pints in less than 7 seconds.

Waiting on our last round

How much is that? $2.25, it gets you five beers and covers the tip.

The last two beers and our tower of terror.

Next stop, Crystals!

Sitting on the "city" park bench outside the P.U.B.

How much did we drink, again?

Two bucks worth, that's right.

June 22, 2010

Viva Elvis

Sunday, Frank and I had a nice night out. A couple months back Cirque Du Soleil announced a summer promotion offering tickets from $55. I jumped at the offer and bought tickets to Viva Elvis. We attended Sunday's 7pm performance. We grabbed dinner at Julian Serrano beforehand, but I'll share more about that meal another day.

My tickets were auto-generated, we were seated in Section 404 Row JJ Seats 1 and 2. Which is located in the last row of the theater. The theater is large and a bit different than other Cirque Shows. This one reminded me a bit of the Colosseum where we saw Cher. The seating is very steep. Individual chairs are roomy and pretty comfortable - such a treat compared to those at "O".

We took our seat about 15-minutes before showtime. There is no pre-show entertainment, we played a game of Sudoku to pass time. About 10 minutes til, I recall saying "those are a lot of seats to fill in short time", as I looked at the sea of emptiness around and below me. The majority of those seats were never filled. If I had to guess, I'd say the theater was less than half filled.

The show got started to a fun number, but then it quickly lost pace. I was bored only a few minutes in, it wasn't until the trampoline act that I gained interest. Only to lose it again later. Viva Elvis gives us a look at Elvis' life from birth. His songs supply the soundtrack, but unlike Love his music is not used. Therefore, the show feels a bit like cheesy Vegas show, with an Elvis tribute. It was a lot of song and dance. The talents of Cirque Du Soleil performers were not well showcased here. There were only a few exceptions where the cast left you breathless. This was the first time 90 minutes lagged during a Cirque Show. Even the grand finale was bit anti-climatic. It was a big disappointment. It's hard to believe this is CityCenter's only entertainment draw.

Criss Angel's Believe has earned the reputation as the worst Cirque Show, but I really can't imagine it being much worse that Viva Elvis. I now want to see it, it can't possibly be that bad, can it?

June 21, 2010

The Offspring

Mike, Frank and I were back at the Hard Rock for another concert on Friday. This time it was The Offspring at The Joint. After experiencing serious sticker shock at the pool last week, we brought a few beers with us to enjoy before the show. It was a nice surprise that plastic cups were handed out so we could bring our drinks inside the venue. Once inside bud was $5 and widmer was $6. In my opinion, it was well worth the extra buck.

The new Joint is a great venue. It has a large open floor plus an area for seating and balconies above the stage. The setup is great there seemed to be a clear shot of the stage from every vantage point.

We missed the first band, Battle Born. They wrapped as we entered. We stood near the stage and waited for the next band, Terrible Things. They were terrible. This was their first time playing in LV, their stage presence was awful, not sure if was nerves or what.

The Offspring took forever to take the stage, but once they did, it was on! They opened with "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid" one of my favorites! The crowd went apeshit! Mosh pits broke out to our right (even a kid in a wheelchair went nuts in the pit). Frank let them bounce off of him to protect me. We were about 6 rows back center stage. We made it through a couple more songs but the mosh pits were just insane for "Bad Habit", Frank wore sandals without thinking - his toes were getting stepped on left and right and I was too paranoid about my ankle to enjoy myself so we bailed. We moved toward the left of the stage about 20 rows back. We could still see the band and I was safe so we could all relax. They played all their old stuff, I felt like I was 18 again. They've gotten old, but so have I. Still, they rocked it out. It was a great time! And a good crowd... ages from 20's to 50's. Even saw a first... that kid in the wheelchair that was moshing went crowd surfing, too.

We have one more concert at Hard Rock this Friday. We'll be seeing Slightly Stoopid at the pool, the show is part of the Legalize It Tour. Kinda ironic since I haven't smoked pot since I was 18. I do think it should be legalized, however. Anyway, it'll be our first time seeing Slightly Stoopid. I hope they put on a good show.

June 18, 2010

Tinkering with the SLR

It took forever to break in my new camera, Nikon D40, because Amazon was slower than molasses in shipping my memory card. But finally it arrived and I had time to read the manual while I waited. Yesterday, I took my first photos. Flowers in the yard are always a good subject.

Not too shabby for my first go, I spot the flaws now I need to learn how to fix them. I'm so used the P & S I found myself getting impatient. My second biggest issue was holding steady. With any luck I learn the settings and how to hold still fairly quickly.

Hockey, Soccer and Basketball - Oh my!

I've been inundated with sporting events I could care less about. First was hockey, despite my Chicago roots it mattered none to me that the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup. It seemed like playoffs and the final games lasted eons. Frank bet someone at work that the Blackhawks would win it all. So, we tuned into the final minutes of the last game. Talk about anti-climatic, I was nearly bored to tears. Chicago wins! Way to go. Thank you, hockey is over.

The World Cup. Yeah, it's not even a sport. It's an activity. I cannot invest time into a game where there is no clear winner. Yawn.

The NBA, I swear the Lakers and Celtics went to game 7 just to torture me. Last night, we were tired of being cooped up in the house so we went out for dinner. The original plan was PT's (they have such deliciously cold beer). There wasn't even a place to park so we drove over to another location that doesn't often draw a crowd. They were busy, too. PT's sucks when it's busy, service suffers and mugs don't have time to chill. So, we decided on Yard House at Town Square. Every restaurant there was packed to the gills. It was already 8 o'clock when we arrived so we figured the crowds would clear out as soon as the game was over. We grabbed Kronenbourgs while we waited. Only 9-minutes were left on the clock. We stood in a crowd rooting for the Lakers. Frank rooted for the Celtics (A Lakers win would cost the book about 100 grand) and I can guarantee there was no one in that restaurant that cared less about the game than me. I just wanted it to end, so we could sit and eat. Not a moment to soon, the Lakers were victorious. Great! Now where's our table? Two minutes later our buzzer lit like a blue light special at Kmart.

We had a tasty dinner, we tried all new items, we're slowly working our way through the menu. We had crab cakes to start. Frank also ordered French onion soup. Both were fine, but nothing memorable. He had parmesan crusted chicken and I had vodka shrimp pasta. The pasta was delicious, great flavor and tons of shrimp. They weren't even overcooked. It was wonderful. The chicken was decent, but it was not a dish I'd recommend.

We headed home after dinner, but Town Square was such a madhouse it took a good twenty minutes to leave the parking lot. The place only has three exits, insanity. Traffic was ridiculous getting on to I-15 so we took Russell home and nearly got side-swiped by a drunk driver. He was all over the road. We ended up calling it in, I've never done that before. Said and done it took 45 minutes to get home. Normally, it's a 10 minute drive. I guess basketball got the last laugh. I have no doubt all the traffic was a result from people out watching game 7 and celebrating the win.

June 16, 2010


We're here again, this is the time of year where I can't believe how quickly time goes. Well, I say it quite a bit actually. But, nevermind that. My point is that June marks our anniversary of our move to Sin City. Next week, we'll officially have seven fun-filled years here in Las Vegas. It's been a wild ride. The first year and the last were the toughest yet. Still I wouldn't trade even the worst day here for the best day in Chicago. I love my life here too much.

Let's take a stroll down memory lane with a cliff-note history of my life as a Las Vegan, shall we?

Frank and I each drove our vehicles (packed with necessities) cross country. I nearly lost him outside of Denver, just as we headed into the Rockies. Luckily, we found each other before panic set in (he took the exit headed eastbound by mistake - no cells, at least I had the sense to stay put when I didn't catch right up to him). We stayed with Frank's gram when we first got to town. We had no jobs so we immediately began the hunt. Within two weeks we each had two offers to choose from. Neither of us have ever regretted our picks. We are still with the same employers today.

Once we had income secured we began the home search. We were very discouraged by the aggressive market and almost settled with an apartment. Gram wasn't having it, though. She pushed us to buy, it was a good-time to enter the market. Prices were still low. Our perseverance and gram's encouragement was worthwhile. We found a great condo for a great price. Litigation kept the price low, but it made it difficult to secure lending. We stuck it through and eventually closed. Meanwhile, we wore out our welcome at gram's and we lived at the Plaza downtown for two weeks. It was more affordable than any other alternative.

We moved into our condo, our home for five years, just before Labor Day weekend. Within three months of our arrival we nailed down jobs and bought our first home. We did good. We had loads of fun on our modest budget. We worked opposite hours, it was crazy and lonely at times. All my family was still back in Chicago. I was never really homesick, but I did miss my loved ones terribly. Gram passed away late winter. It was unfortunate we didn't get more time with her. We did, however, cherish the moments we had. I still recollect those times fondly.

After that first year the struggles seemed to fade. We were into our routines, there was no more culture shock, we had a handle on bills, etc. Family and friends visited so the distance was easier to bear. Life was better than we could have ever dreamed.

In 2006, my mom and brother moved to Pahrump. Later, my sister and her boyfriend, Jeff, joined them. Just a few short weeks later Nicky was born. I had everything I wished for. It was then, Frank was offered an amazing opportunity in Laughlin. He accepted the offer and chaos began. Real estate was booming. We decided to take cash out of our condo to purchase a second home, it was worth $100k more than we paid three years before. We expected Frank to be in Laughlin for a couple years and it seemed like a smart investment. We purchased the Laughlin condo late-2006. We made it work. I spent my weekends in Laughlin, Frank spent his days off in Vegas and we lived apart the rest of the week. I had two homes to clean and shop for, the double duties and time lost commuting was the worst of it. Frank's time in Laughlin was short-lived, in less than a year's time they wanted him back in Vegas. Luckily, we sold the Laughlin condo before the market completely tanked. On paper we walked away even. We were still upside-down on the deal because of having to furnish the place, not to mention we now owed far more on our Las Vegas condo (that 20% we put down was gone). During this time, my family aside from my mom all returned to Chicago. No longer seeing Nicky grow and develop on a weekly basis was the hardest to accept.

We pressed on, we were soaring in 2008, I was able to fly Amy, Nicky and Mike out for my mom's 50th birthday. It was such a wonderful surprise. Overall, we were enjoying the sweet life. Work was great, gaming and the casino business were booming. We decided to take advantage of the relocation package offered as part of Frank's job transfer, we bought a lovely house with a pool; we moved in June. It had everything we wanted and more. The real estate market had fell 20% we thought we were getting a great deal. We went right to work to make it our own. Not long after reality hit. The real estate market crumbled. Gaming slowed. The picture was no longer pretty headed into 2009.

We gave up the condo to the bank because we were unable to sell it despite our best efforts. I only wish I let go of it sooner. We racked up an insane amount of debt struggling to pay two mortgages for many months. My stubbornness has cost us a fortune. We survived the casinos cut backs and pay cuts. Times were tight, but we made due. This year everything has been looking up, thank goodness. That is until local construction took a tumble. Now, I'm facing cut backs and pay cuts. I have faith we'll get through this time, too.

The good times are more fun, but I've learned a lot as a result of the struggles. Those lessons will only help me in the future. Despite it all, Las Vegas has provided me with endless life experiences, dining and entertainment opportunities and the means to enjoy them. I am forever grateful.

June 15, 2010

Beef Stroganoff

All is quiet on the homefront. It's been a long time since I shared a recipe. I haven't tried anything new in quite sometime - I must remedy that - I've been sticking with a rotation of old favorites. When I moved out on my own at 20 the first recipe I asked my mom for was Beef Stroganoff. The recipe was originally my grandma's (it's hard to believe she's been gone two years next week) it has been one of my favorite dishes since I was a child. I still make it today, however, I've since altered it a bit to make it lighter. I use light sour cream, NY strip steak, and 1 tbsp of butter. The lighter version (pictured) still tastes delicious, it's just not as creamy or rich as the original version (posted below).

Beef Stroganoff

2 lbs round steak
2 c onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c butter
3 tbsp flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 can beef consume or beef broth
2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 c sour cream
1 small can mushrooms, drained
6 c rice or noodles, cooked

Cut meat into strips ¼” by 2”. Brown in butter, add onions and garlic. Saute. Add flour, salt, pepper, mustard to make a paste. Then add consume to create gravy. Cover pan and keep on low heat for 20 minutes so the meat gets tender. Add mushrooms and sour cream. Heat until it’s hot and well blended. Serve over rice or noodles.

June 14, 2010

Off her meds - again

Mother Nature must have been off her meds again this weekend. Winds picked up on Thursday and brought in a cold front. It was a bit cool for the Pepper concert at Hard Rock's pool. Saturday, the temps barely reached 80. There were scattered showers all day. It just rained a couple weeks ago, wtf? It's not winter, it's not monsoon season. We're not supposed to have rain. Yesterday, was a lovely spring day. Trouble is we are one week away from summer. This weather has been so bizarre. Thanks El Nino.

Friday, we had free tickets to Pepper courtesy of SpyOnVegas. Those with free tickets had to wait in a line that snaked from the back of the casino near the Joint and box office, and ended at the pool entrance near the parking garage. Once the line started moving it wasn't too bad. It only took 30 minutes or so. Wouldn't have been bad, but it was the most I had walked and stood since I hurt my ankle. My toes felt like fat sausages, I had to rest and elevate my foot before the swelling worsened and I felt like I had overcooked sausages for toes. That "about to burst" feeling is quite uncomfortable. We found a an unoccupied bed off to the side. We took it as ours. I thought we might have to purchase drinks (from the Rehab menu) to stay, but a waitress never came around. We sent Mike off to get us beers. Two 16oz Budlights (blech) were $20. Insanity. We were so spoiled by the Dirty Heads show - the differences were unreal.

I was totally over-dressed in jeans and tee. It was never more apparent than when I went to the restroom. Which only had 5 stalls and had a 15-minute wait before Pepper even took the stage, by the way. The girls primping in the bathroom were all Snookie look-alikes... big girls - half naked in the least flattering pieces of cloth I've seen in a long while. Short and tight seemed to be the theme of the night. However, just a PSA - one size does not fit all. If your backside looks like two pigs fighting under a blanket you should probably re-think your outfit. Then, again, what do I know? I wore jeans and a tee.

The show could have been better. I couldn't deal with the crowd with my ankle so I limited where we could sit. The wind was ridiculous and it interfered with the show, the sound was shitty. Not to mention the disruption from the constant stream of airplanes overhead. $9 beers made it impossible to look past the flaws. After Pepper played the songs we wanted to hear, we bailed. It was a good thing, too, because there was already a line to get out of the garage.

We capped off the night at the new Yard House at Red Rock. The place was hopping, there was a 30-minute wait a 11:00. Think they underestimated the market? We ordered beers and shared wings: jerk & firecracker (per the suggestion of our waitress). They were the first menu items I haven't cared for. Mike didn't like them, either. Frank was left to have himself a wing feast.

Saturday was a fairly lazy day. It was cool and rainy. I took advantage of it and laid in the hammock in the sunroom. Between the sounds of the waterfall, breezes and scattered storms it sort of felt like Mexico. At least, that's what I was imagining as I dozed off. I did manage to clean house and shop at Smith's, but those two activites took me 3x as long as normal. Plus, they wiped me out. I relaxed until we caught the 9:00 showing of Get Him to the Greek at Rave. We had the opportunity to catch the movie premiere at Planet Hollywood, but we passed it up. Our mistake. The movie was hilarious. I liked it far more than I ever imagined. It was the funniest thing since The Hangover and it might even be funnier.

Sunday we went out to my mom's. Frank wanted to take advantage of the cool weather by tackling the landscaping. He cut down all the dead pines with the chain saw and pulled several stumps. The yard is really looking nice. Once the new growth fills in, and all the piles of dead trees are cleaned up, it will really come together beautifully. All his hard work is evident.

June 11, 2010

Delving into Fast Casual Dining

I return to LLV this week with an article about my adventures in fast casual dining. I compare Chipotle, Cafe Rio and Baja Fresh and share my thoughts. Check it out! Vegas Values: Feasting on Fast Casual Fare

June 10, 2010

TV Round-up

Season finales and premieres. We've had a slew of them lately. I know there were two series finales, too, recently, 24 and Lost, but I never got into either one. So, I missed out on all that hoopla.

United States of Tara and Nurse Jackie both ended this week. US of Tara was outstanding its first season, the writing was a bit hokey at times this second season, but the finale was just dreadful. It screamed sitcom. I really hope it didn't jump the shark, but it just might have. Nurse Jackie ended on a high note, this season has actually been a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it far more than the first season. Both shows were signed for a third so it'll be interesting to where they take us.

Breaking Bad's season three is winding down; the last episode is Sunday. So far this season has been a stunner, and I don't expect anything less from the finale. However, I cannot even begin to imagine what's in store. All I do know is that I am certainly excited, and also terribly saddened to have it end. I'm going to miss the drama. I have other favorite shows, but none are of this caliber.

Rescue Me, Entourage, Mad Men and Weeds will all be premiering soon, but even all four combined will hardly fill the void from Breaking Bad. Two new shows also debut Louie on FX and C Word on Showtime. I'll be checking both out to see if either has promise. Oh, tonight Penn & Teller's Bullshit also returns. Almost forgot about that one.

What will you be watching this summer? Any other Breaking Bad fans thinking how bittersweet this Sunday will be?

June 9, 2010

Missin' out

My gimpiness has been limiting my fun. Phooey. Family friends are in town. We hadn't seen them 15 or 16 years. While growing up they were my parents' best friends, we spent all sorts of time with them. Their daughter was my first friend. We were tight like sisters when I didn't have siblings of my own. For whatever reason, my parents lost touch shortly after our last visit to their home in KC, MO. Facebook encouraged me to reconnect with each of my old friends from my youth. I've since found 4 of 6 of them. Once we reconnected, my mom friended them and we're all caught up now. They'll be staying at my mom's place later this week. For now they're at the Golden Nugget. It's their first time to Las Vegas, they're enjoying the sights but they're overwhelmed by the sheer size of everything, the walking and hawkers - they got swindled into a timeshare presentation on their second day. We met for dinner at Grand Lux. Good company and tasty food, I tried to offer as many tips and tricks as possible, but I think I threw out so much information it possibly left them in more of a daze. I would've liked to show them around and be a tour guide of sorts, but I had to get back home and rest.

Yesterday was "Nickel PBR Night" at Todd English's P.U.B. Mike has been dying to go since I first told him about it. He's been saving every nickel that has come his way, he collected a big 'ole baggy of them. I was going to join Mike and Frank for this adventure, but not knowing the situation of crowds and whatnot, it was best I stayed home. Hopefully, it'll stick around long enough for me to check it out.

While they were out, it gave me a chance to play with my new toy. Not that kinda toy... heads out of the gutter, you pervs. I'm talking about the Nikon d40, it's an entry level digital SLR.

I've been comtemplating an upgrade for a several months, but the prices of cameras and lenses had me suffering from sticker shock. I left my thoughts on the back burner until I was familiar enough with manual settings to fully know what I wanted and needed. Then, I had an opportunity to buy this Nikon from a friend, she was upgrading models and wanted to find it a good home. It seems to be just what I need to learn the ropes. It made sense to go this route rather than drop a bunch of coin to find I lost interest or preferred the ease of point and shoot. So, last night I familiarized myself with the basics. I'm anxious to get more mobile so I can take a photo field trip to see what kind of captures I can take. It'll take time to tinker with it and actually know what I'm doing, but I suspect it will be a fun learning process in the meantime.

June 8, 2010

Faded Glory

I'm happy to report that pool season officially begun on Saturday. After a long day of yard work and cleaning house, I jumped in for a refreshing swim. At 83-degrees the water had a slight chill, but it was just what I needed after a day of excessive heat. So the weathermen said, anyway, I thought it was quite nice.

Saturday evening we met friends at the Hofbrauhaus for dinner and drinks. I had their Summer Ale and jager schnitzel or something close to that. It was a pork cutlet in a mushroom sauce with bacon and shoestring onions. It was tastier than past meals I've had there, but I cannot see returning. Any way you slice it, it is overpriced. A hot dog is $14 and it's not Kobe, either. Still the company was good and beers flowed. A Jager wench also made rounds. $5 gets you a shot and a spank. The table next to us went through a bottle buying shots for them and everyone nearby. The wench seemed to take a light hand with the ladies, but for the majority of the men, she used a heavy hand. That crack echoed through the beer garden and silenced everyone. I couldn't help but wonder how much she gets paid to beat people. And what do you suppose she tells people when they ask what she does for a living?

After dinner, we moved the party over to Ellis Island. It was more economical and we were ready to re-live the days of our youth. We went to the lounge for Karaoke. It was a regular haunt and source of entertainment for the first year we lived in Vegas. We'd meet friends after work, drink $1 EIBs and eventually end the night at Club Platinum, a sleazy strip joint. Some nights Frank and crew had the luxury of drinking on the house, because drinks were free for casino employees during the early morning hours.

Saturday night we wound back the clock. Hefes flowed and rounds of the worst tequila on hand were ordered. I resisted the urge, if you can imagine that? I wanted to keep the enamel on my teeth-thanks! Karaoke was worse than I remember it, I believe it would have required copious amounts of alcohol to make it better or at least higher octane booze than I was drinking. Elvis kicked off the night. Who knew he lives at Ellis Island? He sang a few times - Lucky us! We made friends with him later in the night. He occasionally goes by Vinny, but shhh! don't tell Elvis.

As Karoke wrapped up, we went over to Club Platinum. It hasn't changed a bit. Still the trashy hole it's always been. Good times, however. Walking back to Ellis Island, I tripped over my stupid shoe that had been giving me grief all night. My brilliant idea was to wear slip-on sandals since it was hot. I'm usually really good about wearing sturdy comfortable shoes - I have bad ankles, my right one is particularly bad... three injuries in 5 years, but I went with these cheap ass ones from Walmart by Faded Glory (gotta love the irony). I took a good tumble and got up with a limp. We headed straight home and I hoped some ice and rest overnight would leave me in good shape.

However, I was in a world of hurt when I got up Sunday morning, with pain shooting up the back of my leg. I couldn't pull my weight on it to walk. I knew I needed an x-ray. I didn't hear it pop like past sprains so I feared the worst and started reliving the nightmares of my broken ankle, my souvenir from our first trip to Mexico. I laid in bed for a couple hours waiting for Frank to wake. I told him I needed a trip to Urgent Care.

Fortunately, we beat the rush and didn't have to wait long to see a doctor. But the doctors that work on Sundays are a real treat. A unique bunch, all in all. Thankfully, I showed no signs of breaks or fractures. I simply had a sprain. I was so relieved. I couldn't imagine a cast for 6 weeks spanning a Vegas summer. I had only swam once (the day before-the season couldn't be over already), I thought of all the concerts and shows we have planned and our trip to Seattle and Vancouver is next month. If I were able to jump for joy over the sprain, I would have. I'm a pro at the RICE routine and I've learned in the past that over doing it, does no favors. Rest is really best. So, I've been taking it easy. It was nice for an hour or two on Sunday. Especially after all the go-go-go over the last few weeks, but then I was bored and I quickly recalled how I hate sitting idle. I'm already over my gimpiness.

June 4, 2010


This week has been positively hellacious. I'm thrilled it's nearly over. I can't remember the last time I anticipated a weekend, with no real plans, more. I am happy to report Mother Nature is back on her meds (she sure was bipolar there for awhile). We've had fairly normal temps for a week now. Yesterday was our first 100-degree day of the year. Triple digits are here, summer has arrived. We've had the solar cover on the pool all week, the water temperature was up to 80 last night. I think I may finally get in there this weekend. This has been the longest winter since I've lived in Vegas, I've never had to wait until June to kick off pool season.

I'm so ready for lazy days by the pool and warm summer nights. I absolutely love desert nights in the summer. No chill, no mosquitos, in fact it's so comfortable you'll be left to wonder, am I really outside? I'm a nut I even love the way the heat lingers in parking garages and overpasses. It's just as great as experiencing the air temp cool from a Bellagio Fountain show or noticing the difference when going by a lush area with grass and greenery. It's really amazing how a little moisture can cool you, but a lot will leave you sweltering.

The other night we just had to get out. I tasted the summer air and wanted more. We took out the Trans Am and cruised. We drove and drove, it was care-free and wonderful. It was just what I craved. We made a stop at Skyline Casino, an old favorite haunt of ours. We miss the way it was, but still we enjoy going back to spark old memories and get a feel for how things used to be. We had the best time on these old coin-only quarter draw poker machines. Every time you won, quarters would fall. There is something so much more lively about coming in contact with your money. Hence, my love/hate relationship with Ticket-in-Ticket-out. I miss the clang of the coins falling, but I don't miss the filthy hands. Our were mighty dirty by the time we lost our 25 bucks. After the step back in time, we cruised back home. I've been left lusting for more desert summer air ever since. With any luck I'll get my fill this weekend.

June 1, 2010


Exhaust [ig-zawst]
verb (used with object)
1. to drain of strength or energy, wear out, or fatigue greatly, as a person.

I'm experiencing new levels of exhaustion. I am mentally and physically wiped out. My ass should be smaller because I busted it all weekend. I laid out my plans last week, needless to say it didn't go exactly as I thought, but I accomplished a lot.

Friday was our only time for play, we went to Town Square, we thought we'd have dinner at Yard House and catch a movie. Not a chance, the lots were ridiculous. Sex and the City 2 made the place a madhouse. Absolute insanity. Plan B was dinner at Casa Don Juan. We had carnitas and tamales - Muy bueno! We drove home through the historic Alta neighborhood. We just love it there... would love to own a place there someday. We went in the hot tub when we got home. It was a nice night.

Saturday the madness began. My house was in dire need of a deep cleaning after being neglected the last few weeks. I vacuumed & washed the floors, and laundered everything (clothes, linens, rugs), wiped down walls, doors and baseboards, cleaned the fridge, and the rest of the kitchen, the bathrooms and finished by scrubbing the shower. Then, I ran to Sam's Club, Glazier's and Smith's for groceries. Fun times, I tell you.

Sunday & Monday were spent in Pahrump. Sunday we worked like mules. Mom rented another Uhaul to move the remainder of stuff. This has seriously been the world's longest move. By 11 o'clock Sunday night all animals were at the new house. And most of everything was cleared out of the old place. Or so we thought. They still managed to fill the truck on Monday with one last load. While they worked on that, Frank tackled the landscaping and I made it my personal mission to give them a livable kitchen area. When I started yesterday no counters could be seen, but by the end of the day. I had cleaned all cabinets and counters, lined shelves, unpacked, washed and dried every piece, organized and got it all put away. Frank achieved his goal, as well. He trimmed more than a dozen trees and pulled another 6 or so dead ones from the ground with the Suburban. Working with mature trees takes a bit more work than maintaining our little Vegas trees. Some branches were the size of trees you see staked in most newer neighborhoods. Piles and piles remain. We never had a chance to build a firepit. Until then, my mom is set for firewood (she has a wood burning fireplace in this house) for the next 10 winters, at least.

The highlight of my weekend was discovering a scrumptious treat from In-N-Out. I've had animal fries before and was less than enthused by the sloppy soggy mess that the dressing creates. Months later, I got to thinking... how great would the fries be with just grilled onions and cheese? Finally, I gave them a whirl. Sinful. I wish I never gave animal fries another thought. I hate what this tasty delight will do to my ass and thighs. Those Double Doubles do enough damage. However, if I keep going at the current pace, I won't need to worry. It'll all be a wash in the end.

Just a brief notice, posts will likely be light this week. Work is hectic. Life in general just feels chaotic. If I have time for a breather, I'll share... something, but otherwise it might just be crickets the next few days.