November 29, 2010

Eat & Shop til You Drop

Four days off from work and the only time I left my house was to fight the crowds on Black Friday. That's quite a departure from most weekends, let alone, Thanksgiving break. I'm one who is almost always on the go, but this year I had plenty to keep me busy. I'm happy to report it was a very productive four days off.

Our first few Thanksgivings in Vegas, I spent in Chicago, it was always nice to be with the family back home for the holiday. But fares are no longer the deals they once were, so I've stayed put the past few years. The first year, Frank and I were solo so we went to a buffet. The one at Fiesta, it was free or maybe half-price. Either way, it was far too costly. It was just terrible. The next year, I was determined to try to cook, it couldn't be worse than that buffet. Could it? The turkey was tasty, but everything else was a complete failure. Last year, I tried again, and had many successes, but eliminated mashed potatoes from the menu; they never had a chance to be my downfall. My confidence grew, and early on, I decided I'd like to host Thanksgiving, this year. We invited Frank's family, and my mom joined us, too.

My Thanksgiving started by baking sugar-free chocolate chip cookies, then I prepped the bird, and got it in the oven by 9:15. I cleaned house, set the table, and showered. Once one o'clock rolled around, time ticked by in a hurry. The next few hours were a complete blur. However, I did manage to prepare a beautifully cooked juicy turkey, savory sausage stuffing that hit the spot, creamy mashed potatoes, garlicky broccolini, flavorful pearl onions, tangy cranberry sauce and yeasty rolls. My mom threw together a tasty parmesan salad to make our meal complete. Everything was a success -- it was such a relief! After dinner, I kicked back with the family we drank wine, shared many laughs, and we cleaned them out of quarters (playing LRC and screw your neighbor). It could have only been better if I had my whole family together. But goodness, I can't imagine preparing a meal for that many. Ten took a lot of work.

I did talk to my sister and my favorite boy. First, I had a voicemail from them. I wish I knew a way to share it. It went something like this...

Amy: We're calling to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
Nicky: Hap.. yeah...
Amy: Say it.
Nicky: Thank you? Hap... Thank... you.
Amy: Happy Thanksgiving.
Nicky: Happy Thanksgiving.

Poor kid was confused.

He still was when I talked to him later. He got all tongue tied again with his wishes. I then asked, are you going to eat turkey, today? "No, it's for Thanksgiving", he said. Today is Thanksgiving, I reminded him. All I got was crickets. Still, it made my day.

About eleven, my mom and I sat around the table browsing sales ads. It was time to plan our attack. There was nothing that I had to have. Mom wanted a TV and other goodies from Target. They opened at 4am. This meant I got to sleep until 3:30. Believe me, I needed it.

My mom has handicap parking, this has been a huge advantage previous Black Fridays. Not this year, everyone got a super early start. There was no parking. Period. The line to enter the store snaked around the building to the rear. The longest one I've stood in to date. The coldest, too. Our coldest day of the year, and my dumb ass is standing in a line wrapped around a freaking building. The things I do for my mom. She did give me life, I suppose, I do owe her. Once inside, I found myself in another line. The slowest moving one in existence. I waited for my chance at a TV while mom grabbed the rest of the items on her list. 1.5 hours later, I'm five people from the front of the electronics line, but the TV's are long gone. I leave the line and move on to the next one... The check out line, probably the second slowest in existence. Still, both beat that 15 minute wait in the one outside. I was nice and toasty indoors. We leave minutes before 6 o'clock and dash over to Lowe's. No crowd, at all. Not that we expected one. Who puts Lowe's on their Black Friday list, besides us? The few that were there probably thought it was business as usual. Anyway, mom got her lights and I got 48 AA batteries for $6. Yes, this was my Black Friday deal. Apparently, this is why I left my warm bed at 3:30am.

We continued on and hit seven more stores before the day was done. We also stopped and had breakfast at Siena Bistro. It's such a wonderful place to recharge, especially on Black Friday. It was just what I needed.

We were back at home by 2 o'clock. I was fast asleep by 2:30, after a two hour nap, I was ready to face the mess in my kitchen. Just as I got the house back in order, Frank came home from work. He was hungry. It was time to mess my freshly clean kitchen by reheating leftovers and making turkey sandwiches. Ahh! The joys of the holiday. In all seriousness, I was very thankful in that moment. A joyous holiday, it was.

November 24, 2010

How do you do it?

We're having our first true cold spell, temperatures dipped below freezing last night and are forecasted to do so again tonight. Frank wrapped our exposed pipes and set the pool filter to run all night. So far, so good. We learned the lesson of preparedness last year when the sprinkler pipe burst.

The cold front was in full force yesterday. It was damn cold. We're all bundled up, and each year it seems colder. My blood keeps thinning. I really don't know how all of you back east deal with the winter - negative temps, sleet, and snow. Really, how do you do it? I can barely deal with 40's and strong winds. Winter hasn't even officially begun and I'm already counting down the days until summer returns.

Even Frank was all bundled yesterday, he broke down and bought a coat this year. He broke it in yesterday and was still chilled. We went out for lunch, I wanted to try this little taco shop I had heard good about. It is Taqueria Los Parados at Sahara/Valley View. We sought it out, only to find it has closed. It's a shame, I never got to try their carne asada or shrimp tacos. I heard they were fantastic. Nearby is Vinny Boy's Italian Deli, we tried that instead. I ordered an Italian sub which came with pasta salad. Frank had eggplant parm, it came with garlic knots. I make better sandwiches. The eggplant was tough, and the sauce was super acidic. We won't be back.

Fortunately, better eats are planned for tomorrow. I was originally cooking for ten, but I'm down to nine. I'm hopeful everything is a success. Happy Thanksgiving all! Enjoy the holiday!

November 23, 2010

Head Over Heels

I've spoke of my love over ING before. But my affection has only grown. Truly, I never thought I could love a bank more. Especially, since I tend to hate banks. A perfect example, we recently broke up with Nevada State Bank. We had a 7.5 year relationship, then they became a massive pain in the ass so we cut ties. Frank's gram convinced us to open an account with them when we first moved to Las Vegas. They were small, local and friendly. We did as she said, and we really had no issues until they expanded after buying out every Tom, Dick and Harry bank that folded. Then, they started hitting us with fees. And more fees. After three strikes, Frank went into the bank and told them they could refund unneccessary fees or we'd close the account. We withdrew our funds, and the next day I discontinued my direct deposits. A few weeks later they called to say we had overdrawn the account and we owed $160 in fees. I laughed. This is precisely why we closed the account.

Back to ING, we've been satisfied customers for quite sometime, we've been using their checking account for a year now. When we reached our anniversary they sent us a nice greeting, who does that? They do. They also make transferring money a breeze. We have free access to ATM's nationwide, a mobile app gives us the nearest location. When we needed cash in Seattle, we were able to transfer funds from savings instantly and access the cash immediately. October and November they're giving us 1% back on all purchases under $50. It netted us almost $20 last month, we use the card for everything! There's so much more...

However, what really sealed the deal was working with them over our dispute with Mexicana Airlines. Once I filed recourse with Mexicana I also filed a report with ING. I explained that the airline went bankrupt and they offered us no alternative flights. I wanted to protect us anyway possible, I did not want to be out $600. I had bought the airlines tickets months before so the time period for disputes had expired. Still, they offered to see what they could do. I sent them requested information and supporting docs, then I waited. Today, I received notice that the dispute has been resolved and our account was fully credited. I'm absolutely thrilled. Mexicana still has a month before they must respond. Now, I can fully enjoy our upcoming trip. I won't have that $600 loss sitting in the back of my mind. Instead, it'll be funds set aside to be spent on food and drink.

November 22, 2010

Cold & Rainy

Winter arrived this weekend, it brought rain and cold. I suppose we were fortunate that we've been able to hold off this long. Usually November is chilly from the start. It had been pretty nice, I suppose that was our reward for putting up with a colder than usual October. Anyway, here were are a few days from Thanksgiving. I spent much of the weekend preparing for the holiday. The stores were insane on Saturday. Grocery and home stores were complete chaos. Good news is spending should be up, I can't imagine people fighting the hoards to window shop. Also, cleaned a bunch. Steam-cleaned the carpets for what just might be the last time. We shall see.

As if my pre-holiday tasks weren't rockstar enough we also took an impromptu drive to Laughlin. We wanted Mexican food. It's warmer there. And Frank needed clothes. Frank made out like a bandit at the outlet mall per usual. It was only shoes he had no luck with, but success with clothes alone is pretty exciting. If we found shoes, too, the world might have stopped spinning.

We went to the Belle and played our numbers for 15 games of Keno. Lost $20 at the bar VP, then went to Edgewater. Saw they had comics at 7:00 it was 6:30 so we bought tickets (at $10/each) it was cheaper than gambling. Saw two comedians and enjoyed the show. More laughs than other comedy acts we've seen in Laughlin. We went back to the Belle to check our Keno ticket and our numbers were on the board. Too bad our games had already ended that would've been $350. Instead, we won $5 from scattered hits. We put it in a dollar slot in hopes we'd snag a jackpot, but no luck. We took a drive by the old neighborhood, and then headed for home. Had a brief stop in Searchlight for Bowlingo, Frank also got a McRib just to gross me out, I swear. He ate and I giggled and snapped a photo of Sluts Pool. Yes, sometimes I am twelve.

Wrapped up the weekend by making dinner. Dug out the dutch oven and braised short ribs, also did a trial run of mashed potatoes. I've made mashed potatoes twice (I know, heresy for an Irish girl), once by accident -- delicious. And again two years ago for Thanksgiving -- fail. Failures won't be tolerated this turkey day, because this year I have an audience. I was told a potato ricer was key to fluffy potatoes. So, I went out and bought one. I'm happy to report my mashed taters were a success. The short ribs, however? Eh. Too much trouble for the end result. Stripsteak and others do them up far better.

Pioneer Woman's Short Ribs, with my changes.

4 Beef Short Ribs
Kosher Salt & Pepper To Taste
¼ cups All-purpose Flour
3 pieces bacon, Diced
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
1 whole celery stalk, Diced
2 whole Carrots, Diced
1 cups Red Wine
1 cups Chicken Broth (enough To Almost Cover Ribs)
1 tsp Thyme leaves
1 sprig Rosemary

Salt and pepper ribs, then dredge in flour. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until complete crispy and all fat is rendered. Remove bacon and set aside. Do not discard grease.

Add olive oil to pan with the bacon grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, about 45 seconds per side. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.

Add onions, carrots, and shallots to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful bits of glory. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.

Add broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add thyme and rosemary sprig (whole) to the liquid.

Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid. (Can also refrigerate mixture, then remove solid fat from the top.)

November 19, 2010

It's doing it again...

Time is flying, like whipping by at rapid speeds... I have a lot on my plate right now, but I have a handy-dandy to-do list to keep me in check. I have deadlines and big projects bidding at work, plus there is prepping and cooking for ten for Thanksgiving, not to mention other little things that are time-sensitive. It's a mad-scramble to the finish line, which is our trip to Mexico. It's a full schedule until then, and at the rate time is flying it'll be here in a blink of an eye.

By the way, this week's LLV article covers a sample of the tasty eats offered across the valley this Turkey Day. Vegas Values: Thanksgiving Feasts. I never shared last week's, so I'll leave you with that, Vegas Values: Pancakes and More!

November 18, 2010


I cannot keep up this year; how are we are one short week from Thanksgiving? My mind thinks its September, but I better get with it. Holiday shopping is around the corner. It’s also time to start thinking about Christmas Cards. Last year, I had a design in mind and ordered early from Shutterfly. They did a fantastic job printing my cards, and the reasonable price even included envelopes. Others that I priced were for the card alone. I had many compliments and I liked that I sent something with a personal touch rather than a generic greeting, like I had done years before. I chose a 4x8 photo card, I uploaded a photo, personalized a greeting and, voila, my order was ready to place. Days later the beautifully printed cards arrived by mail.

I’ll be ordering my Christmas Cards again this year from Shutterfly. Shutterfly also makes my holiday shopping a bit easier. They have many great products suitable for gift-giving especially for those who are hard to buy for or have everything. Each year since my nephew was born, I create a Photo Book to give to my sister as a gift from him. I fill the book with photos I captured throughout the year. Each photo book documents his adventures and growth, and is a cherished keepsake. It brings my sister to tears every time.


Last year sometime I discovered the gloriousness of Yelp. It was a great resource when looking for reviews on restaurants. Earlier this year, I started contributing, I figured giving back was the least I could do. A couple months back, I became Elite. Which allows me to meet really great people and attend special events. My busy schedule has kept me from attending previous outings, but I was free for the Yelpmazing Race held Tuesday at MGM.

I'm unfamilair with Amazing Race but I imagined it would be some sort of scavenger hunt, and it was. We had a meet and greet before we got started, and enjoyed Skyy cocktails. Then, we gathered with our assigned team (9 in all) and each team was given a packet with our first task. We had five to complete at different restaurants. After successful completion we were given a puzzle piece, once we completed our puzzle we were to return to Rouge.

First Stop:
Diego, one team member had to make guac the way Diego prepares it. While she did that we all had to salsa. Then, once it was approved we had to eat all the guac and chips. After scarfing those down we earned our puzzle piece.

Second Stop:
Seablue, two team members (us) had to identify and make a salad with ingredients checked off. Frank read and I plated. Nailed it. Two had to taste wines, and the rest had to answer a quiz, they were stuggling so when we finished we helped out. My otherwise useless chef/restaurant knowledge came in handy. Puzzle piece secured.

Third Stop:
Fiamma, we were led to a table with small plates of pasta: penne, gnocchi and spaghetti. I was seated in front of pesto spaghetti, Frank had gnocchi. We had to clear our plates using no utensils or hands, if we touched the plate there was a 30 sec penalty. Spaghetti is tough to scarf, and all I tasted from then on was pesto. Got another puzzle piece.

Fourth Stop:
'Wichcraft, one team member had to eat blind folded (I volunteered, but someone else wanted it), and describe ingredients to another and she had to re-create the sandwich. The rest of us had to complete a cross word puzzle, we finished in record time, but they were still working on the sandwich. Finally, got approval and we were off. Another piece earned.

Fifth Stop:
Grand Buffet, they laid out 40 items and we had to eat them all. They attempted to tell us about the dishes but we were too busy shoving food down our throats. Puzzle completed.

We really thought we did good, but we came in 7th out of 9th. 5th/6th place finished seconds before us. No clue how the other teams completed the challenge so quickly. All we could figure is they had less back and forth. We all had a different order to complete the tasks. Frank and I know MGM like the back of our hand, but it did not give us enough of an edge.

Back at Rouge they served cupcakes and cookies. I was too full to eat or drink. The bar remained open until 10:00. There was a raffle and awards ceremony. As a parting gift I got an old school metal lunch box. We left after the prizes were awarded. Each participant of the winning team got dinner for two (any participating restaurants) and two show tickets to Crazy Horse. Nice prizes. It was good fun! I'm glad we went.

November 17, 2010

Road Trip: Phoenix

Yes, I just finished telling you about San Francisco, and now I have Phoenix adventures to share. We took our first road trip in the Avalanche. Great ride and the best gas mileage we've experienced going to Phoenix (we've only taken the Jimmy and Firebird, before). It was also our first time using the new dam bridge. It is pretty damn nifty. There is no creep and crawl as you wind down the mountain, no checkpoint. Nothing. You just cruise. And the cement walls are high enough you don't see the dam and you have no indication how high you truly are. Perfect solution for rubberneckers and those fearful of heights. Traffic flows brilliantly, until you get to Arizona, that is. Once you cross, you are forced to one lane and you crawl at 25 mph through the construction zones. Clearly, Nevada was on the ball, and AZ fell behind schedule. When all construction is complete it will save at least 30 minutes. More for those who regularly had long waits at the dam (mainly those visiting from AZ).

We stopped in Kingman for In-N-out. Then, pressed on. Thought we were making good time, that is until we got to Shane's and realized that we lost an hour. I completely forgot fall-winter AZ is an hour ahead of us, since they don't observe day light savings. That tidbit would've helped a ton, since I told my friend we'd be meeting we'd get in after 9.

All worked out, though, we headed to Scoreboards. Frank, Shane and I played a round of darts, I was terrible per usual and sat out after the warm up round. That's when Amy and Mike arrived, they live in Baltmore, but they were visiting Phoenix, as well. Great seeing them, we had lots of laughs and met lots of characters (like the guy who runs NJ). Drinks flowed, and it was last call in no time. Night could have been better if we didn't have to gag on this guy that reeked cat piss. It was bad. real. bad. Still, good times. I was wrecked by the time we got back to Shane's. I blame slammin' my last beer, because of last call. Needless to say I crashed hard.

I woke up with a killer hangover. The boys were A-OK. We went for breakfast at Nick's Diner. Ate terrible French toast, they had greek omelets. Went to a park for disc golf. I was still suffering from major dehydration so I didn't play, but the weather was lovely. It was nice just to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. While there, there was a guy who took his play WAY too seriously and he was killing me with his grunting. You could hear him clear across the park. He caught up with us on the 15th hole, and asked to play the next three with them. We got to witness him in all his glory. I don't know why they attract these weirdos but it never fails.

Next we went to Coasters and Castles for mini-golf. The have 4 awesome courses. By the time we started to play I had downed a few bottles of water and I was human again. They bet a quarter on each hole, at the end Shane owed Frank 75 cents. Fun time.

Mini-Golf At Coasters & Castles

Afterwards, I sought out Five Guys. With no help of onstar, their service is such shit. We knew it was bad in Vegas, and it's even worse in the PHX area. They kept trying to send us to Tempe. 25 miles away, we were less that two miles from one in Phoenix. We ended up calling to tell them to add the one we were at. Anyway, I finally had Five Guys. We made 800 jokes on the way, after we ordered, I swore the cashier told us to enjoy some penis while we waited. Excuse me? Oh. Peanuts. Of course, all burger joints have peanuts. A bit bizarre, but they were tasty. We all ordered a burger to our liking and we shared cajun fries. Burger was good, tasted like something you'd make at home. The fries were terrible. Not sure how they've earned such recognition. I like crisp fries, these were flimsy and greasy, and I wasn't a fan of cajun seasoning, either. I stand by In-N-out.

After, we went back to Shane's. I rested a bit while the guys talked Fantasy Football. They played Madden, and then we caught a movie. We saw Due Date. Parts were very funny, but it was so far-fetched that I couldn't buy it. I left saying, really? Total fluff, but did see a trailer for Hall Pass. That looks hilarious, they probably showed the best parts in the trailer, still it's the first one in ages I've seen that actually had me anticipating its release.

Ate some shitty mexican for dinner, it was late (after 10, ha) and most everywhere (except Jack-in-the-Box, joy) was closed. It curbed the hunger. The boys played another game of Madden. I caught up with some stuff online, then we crashed.

Sunday, we adjusted our fantasty teams and then headed out for Mr. Goodcents. They have footlong subs for $3.99 on Sundays. Such a value. It's become tradition. We ate and watched morning games until half-time and then we were off to the University of Phoenix stadium, which is in Glendale oddly enough. Even saw the Glendale Arena, which was one of the first projects I worked on start-finish. My name is on a plague somewhere there. That's probably the closest I'll ever get to it.

Game was Cardinals vs. Seahawks. We had no vested interest, just came for the experience. Seahawks crushed the Cards. The stadium cleared out in the 4th quarter, by the 2-min warning it was just us and 'hawks fans. Whenever Frank and I go to stadiums we have to try the specialty... here was BBQ, and cinnamon nuts. BBQ was weak, but the nuts were good.

We caught a lot of traffic after the game, between football and NASCAR it was bumper to bumper. We got on the road toward home about 6, and got home just after 10. We stopped for In-N-out in Kingman again. I've had my fill of burgers for quite sometime.

Phoenix, it is always an adventure.

November 16, 2010

Wrapping up San Francisco

Tuesday, we slept in. All the walking must have been catching up to us. Clearly, we were beat. I called the front desk for late check out. He asked how long I needed? I asked how late could I have without a charge? 2:00, he said. Then, 2:00 it is.

We went back to Petite Deli for another bite, it's a great way to start the day. Today, she gave us pasta salad and a scoop of potato salad. I ordered the Italian Hero again, and Frank tried the chicken salad sandwich since three people ordered it the day before just in the short time it took us to devour our sandwiches. It was good, but we agreed that we'd likely prefer tuna. My hero was as yummy as ever.

We went back to the hotel to rest and pack knowing our time to do so was limited. 2 o'clock quickly rolled around, we checked out and checked our bags and then ventured out to see the sights.

We stopped at the Cable Car Museum. It's a neat little place that gives the history of the cars. It is also where all the lines intersect and where cars are housed, and repaired.

After, we went in search of the main entrance to Chinatown. We've only taken the back way in previously. It was an easy find, so easy that we actually stumbled on it by accident.

Nearby we stopped in Teuscher Chocolates, I knew nothing of them it was simply the scent of chocolate that lured us in. We were quickly given a lesson and were told they were best known for their Champagne Truffles. We each got one, plus a few other hand picked treats. $16 later we had an itty-bitty bag of candy. The truffles were very good, but our favorite were actually the pralines. We tried hazelnut and pistachio. We ate our candies outside Starbucks (Frank popped in for a coffee) and then we continued on by foot.

When I spotted this crane I knew there was something peculiar. It took a minute to figure out what was so odd. Then, it hit me.

They have to compensate for the unlevel pavement. The front end of this crane was off the ground. Pretty wild.

It grew to be late afternoon. It was time to get our last San Francisco meal in, we grabbed a bite at R & G Lounge. They're famous for salt and pepper crab. If only I had the appetite to try it, next time, for sure. Instead, we ordered delicious fried rice, not dark like what we were used to in Chicago, but the flavors were right on. We also had 1/2 a roasted duck. I loves me some duck and this did not disappoint.

We just a little time left before we had to collect our bags so we connected over to the Hyde Cable Car. We hadn't been on it this trip. Now, we felt complete. We stopped at Lombard street to gawk and soak up the last views of the city before it was engulfed in fog from the storm that was rolling in.

It began to drizzle, and the drops got larger and larger until it poured. Silly me, left the umbrellas in the luggage. Brilliant. It was a wet walk back to the hotel. We grabbed our bags and headed back to the Cable Car for our final ride on the Powell-Mason line. When we hit Union Square we passed a hotel with camera crews outfront. Supposedly, it was American Idol. While, we were stopped in front a girl came running out with a yellow ticket. I guess she's going to Hollywood? That's how that works right?

Anyway, from the cable car we hopped on Bart. We made our way to the airport quicker than we imagined. When we went to reprint our boarding pass, we checked to see if we could catch an earlier flight. There was one an hour before ours, we tried to switch, but it would cost $300. Nutty. We only paid $34/ea for the flight home. We'll gladly wait around the hour. Fortunately, the rain didn't cause and delays and we were up in the air at 9:05 as scheduled. An hour and half later, we were home. Greeted by a taxi driver that sobbed about the short fare. C'mon guys, MGM Grand is one of the largest hotels in the world, let alone the city, there is a good chance your fare will be headed there.

Just another reason to expand the monorail from the airport to MGM (at the very least), but that's a story for another day. That wraps up this year's visit to San Francisco. We'll likely return next November for more crab and other tasty delights.

November 15, 2010

Seeing the Sights, Eatin' the Food

Monday we started our day at the Ferry Building. We needed more meat, bread and olive oil. The Street Car got us there in no time. The wait for it, however, was a bit interesting. A homeless man offered me a seat beside him at the stop. I declined, but points earned for being polite. We board and pull away, he lingers behind. From our seat we see him relieve himself in the corner. Bus stops double as urinals. Must remember that. By the way, polite points revoked.

We got all our goodies and took them back to the hotel. Then, we paid our dear friend Young a visit. She's been making sandwiches for 19 years at her Petite Deli. She is the sweetest woman, she's the closest thing we have to a grandma... She bought us pasta salad for coming back to see her. We ordered a turkey delight, and Italian hero. Yummy. Her honey mustard and addition of basil makes everything special. She sent us off with cookies. We practically skipped like little kids back to the hotel. You must appreciate people who are truly kind and warm, like Young. She treats everyone like a guest in her home.

We relaxed a bit, and waited for Mary to meet us. She was picking us up and we were headed to the Beach Chalet for lunch. It's a lovely restaurant with spectacular views of the Pacific. Winds were strong so white caps rolled in throughout our meal. The food was equally enjoyable. Frank and Mary both had a crab louie salad and I opted for a crab cake with a mandarin and fennel salad. Then, Frank and I shared a sand castle dessert. Everything was very good, and it was nice way to catch up with Mary.

After lunch Mary was kind enough to take us through Golden Gate Park, and to Alamo Square so we could see the Painted Ladies, you might know them from Full House fame.

They are a lovely sight. I was also taken back by the beautiful backdrop of the city. The park there would be a nice place for a picnic. Maybe right under this tree?

Mary took us back to Golden Gate Park, we said so long, and walked to the museums. Only the Academy of Sciences was open, so we opted to see the Botanical Gardens instead. It's a vast collection of plants from all over. It seems a bit neglected. Many trails were messed with debris and overgrown, but we enjoyed it.

This bunch were taken by Frank

After walking around the gardens we hopped on the first bus we saw. Took that until we spotted tracks. Hopped on a bus/train, that took us to Van Ness where we caught another bus to the hotel. We managed quite well for not knowing where we were. Google Maps on Blackberry also makes life easier.

Back at the hotel, we had another picnic with our smorgasbord of Ferry Building treats. We went a bit overboard. We stuffed ourselves silly. We lounged in bed and watched MNF. I searched for a place nearby open late for dinner. About 10 o'clock, we wandered out and sought E' Tutto Qua. I was still pretty full, but I found a way to share a salad with Frank and order my own pasta dish. I tried to skip the bread basket but I needed a slice to slurp up some leftover sauce at the end. Frank had parpadelle with lamb ragu and I had orchiette with Italian sausage. Both were excellent.

We waddled out of the restaurant. And walked the neighborhood a bit since we felt at home.

From Broadway and Columbus, we walked through Chinatown and found ourselves back at the California Cable Car line. We hopped on, and rode it to the Powell-Mason transfer. Then, we had the driver stop near La Rocca's Corner. We stopped in and had a beer. We were much too full to do much drinking so we turned in shortly thereafter. On the walk back to the hotel we saw a rat rummaging through garbage that was left in the alley for trash service. Yuck! You may remember I hate those icky critters. I was super creeped out. I kept an eye out the rest of the trip.