Last post of 2010

December 31, 2010
It's been a great year, thanks for joining me for the ride. May the new year bring health, wealth and happiness for us all!

I'll leave you with the details of our Greek Christmas at Estiatorio Milos, Vegas Values: Milos Boasts the Best.

Happy New Year!

The Gift of Tomorrow

December 30, 2010
It’s hard to believe 2010 is coming to an end, it seems like only yesterday we were saying so long to 2009, but here we are ushering in 2011. It’s been a wild ride. The economy and even the weather haven’t been able to hold steady. Mother Nature is getting the last laugh; we are set to have the coldest New Year’s Eve ever. Last I saw, the forecast calls for a high of 39. Bring whiskey, strip revelers; you’ll need it to keep warm.

2010 tossed us some curve balls but overall we’ve had a very blessed year. We’ve had quality time with loved ones, near and far. Met friends, new and old. Traveled quite a bit, and ate even more. All the while creating fantastic memories I’ll cherish forever.

I've realized this year, I've learned more about myself. I guess it’s true you do get more comfortable in your own in skin after 30. Or maybe, I’m just learning to let go of my fears – of failure, among other things? I’ve pursued and achieved many things this year. Things I never dreamt possible just a short year ago. I know it’s just the beginning. They say a journey begins with one step. Well, I’m anxious to see where my feet lead me.

Home will change in the coming year. As much as I love our house, I look forward to new freedoms that will provide us with opportunities to live freer. I yearn to travel. We are fortunate that we are able to do a fair amount already – I’ve visited Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver, Hurricane, Huntington Beach, San Francisco, and Xpu-ha this year – but I want to see more. I want to experience the world. Beginning with Italy, our goal is 2012. In 2011, we already have plans to visit San Diego, Phoenix and New York City. We’d also like to get to Louisville, KY and possible New Orleans. Plus, we have our sights set on return trips to San Francisco and Xpu-ha. And, I think it’s time I get back to Chicago for a visit. Check back this time next year to see how we fare.

Above all, this year has taught me life is even shorter than I ever knew. I’ve always tried to live each day to the fullest, but it seems even more important to live each day as your last. Only today is certain, tomorrows are simply a gift.

Breaking up with Charlie Palmer

December 29, 2010
So, the football game last night nearly gave me a heart attack, the Eagles were so sloppy, but Vick pulled it off. I won! I was one happy girl. I still have my 1st place lead in Pick'em, too. All is looking good.

Dinner at Aureole was at 8:30. We sat in the dining room this time. I do prefer Swan Court, but you can enjoy the wine tower in the dining room. We saw the wine angels fetch a couple bottles while we dined.



Bob toyed with the wine list first. Now that iPads are so popular their tablet hardly seems as advanced. Still, it's fun to search through all the options. Although, it's WAY overwhelming. We ended up speaking to the sommelier to make our selections. We ordered by the glass so we each had our pick. Frank had Ridge York Creek Zinfandel 2007, Bob chose the Ferrer Malbec and I had a Saar Reisling. We were all satisfied with our selections. We placed our order and noshed on bread while we waited for our first course. We had the choice of multi-grain, pretzel, foccacia and french. The latter two were the tastiest.



Bob chose the Market Menu ($65) and Frank and I ordered a la carte. Bob was started with clam chowder, Frank had onion soup and it was the pear tart with duck proscuitto for me. All three whet our appetite and we were ready for more.







Then for the main course Bob had Waygu skirt steak, Frank chose the rack of lamb and I went with scallops. The steak had fantastic flavor, but it was very chewy, likely due to the cut of meat. As good as the flavor was I couldn't help but think it was like beef flavored bubble gum -- tasty while you chew, but you don't want to swallow it. My scallops were huge and nicely prepared, but the vanilla apple compote was simply too sweet for my liking. The star of the meal was Frank's lamb. Rich and meaty, just plain delicious. I also ordered ratatouille for us to share. It was very good.









Frank and I passed on dessert, but Bob enjoyed maple bread pudding with coconut ice cream.



We used my $50 restaurant.com, the final tab, including tip was $285. It wasn't worth it. I was far less impressed with Aureole this time around. It's doubtful I'd give it another chance. There are just too many other tastier meals to be had, especially at this price point.

It's Happy Hour Somewhere

December 28, 2010
Happy Hour deals are really fantastic. I love that more and more, including reverse happy hours are popping up. Yesterday, we took advantage of old favorites. First, we went to Seablue for $1 shrimp and $4 Stella. 42 shrimp, lobster corn dogs, a chicken skewer (not worth $3, btw) and 6 Stellas later, we were giddy and had full bellies. We had been keeping an eye on the game during our meal, we thought we'd catch the rest at PT's. It was an easy choice since they have 50% off drinks until 7:00. Drank beers and enjoyed the game, Frank and Bob won their parlay bets. I fared well in fantasy. I only have a 20-point deficit going into tonight's game. I just need Vick to shine like he has past weeks. If I pull off the win tonight I win my fantasy league. I'm guaranteed money either way, but I'd like to secure that top prize.

Good eats lie ahead, we're meeting up at Archi's for lunch. Noon cannot come soon enough, it's all I've been able to think about. Well, that, and tonight's dinner at Aureole. We had a fantastic meal last year for Frank's birthday, I hope this one is just as good. Bob already has his sights set on wine. I tend to think we'll end up choosing the Parallel Tasting menu again, this time with wine pairings. The options have changed since last year, but the current menu appears to be stellar. We shall see for ourselves tonight. With any luck, by the time our reservation rolls around I'll be able to celebrate my fantasy football victory.

Holiday Cheer

December 27, 2010
Hope everyone had a happy holiday, and enjoyed time with loved ones. Those moments should be cherished. Nothing reminds you how truly blessed you are than tragedy. A co-workers wife passed away on Christmas, he found her lifeless on the floor. My heart breaks for him, and their family. At the same time, I want to hug mine extra close.

The family had a white Christmas in Chicago. I got the sweetest voicemail from Nicky on Christmas Eve after the UPS-man dropped off his gift.

"I want to call you for thank you for my Christmas present... You didn't call me. Merry Christmas. Love You... Can you please call me back? Please I want to call".

That boy melts my heart. His cuteness continued on Christmas morning, when he woke up and saw that Santa came, he squealed, "Santa came and he didn't leave coal in my stocking". His excitement grew with each gift opened "holy guacamole" "kazam" and other similar combinations. I hear it was caught on video and I look forward to seeing the footage. I would love to share a holiday with them, but traveling during the holiday is costly and hectic. If I did go for a holiday weekend, it'd be such a chaotic whirlwind, I'd never be in one place long enough to enjoy it.

Plus, 60-degrees and sunny is my kind of Christmas. I'm all about those warm holiday wishes. It was beautiful here in Las Vegas, and I was finally feeling better on Friday, too. Just in time to welcome Bob and Hugh. They were staying at Aria while Hugh was visiting. I'm not a fan of Aria's casino, but the hotel? Wow. The rooms are gorgeous. I was very impressed by all the little details, decor and stunning view. We visited and all that jazz to pass time until our meal at Estiatorio Milos. Pete joined us, as well. The five of us enjoyed a Greek Christmas. We had a fantastic meal, but I'm going to make y'all await the details. After dinner, we hung around the Cosmo and gambled. So far, I'm a fan of the property - we toured more spaces: the other pools, Scarpetta, No Name Pizza Kitchen, STK, among others, but the casino games are cruel. 5 for 5 we were all unlucky. After our beating, we thought we grab coffee and a sweet bite, but the Caffe had already closed. It was 10:15 on a Saturday night, wtf? We went to Comme Ca, instead. We had coffee and dessert in the bar.





Cardamom Creme Chantilly



Valrona Chocolate, Caramel Creme, Orizaba Praline Feuilletine



Neither of the desserts were worth their $9 price tags. Two lattes were $10 and served luke warm. The waitress did bring two fresh hot lattes after a mention of how chilled the first ones were. I realize this isn't a fair representation of the restaurant itself, but I certainly hope their dining fares better. We were unimpressed.

Christmas day was fairly quiet. We spent much of the day relaxing at home. Meanwhile, Bob and Hugh saw Red Rock and casino hopped. They came by afterwards. We had margaritas (Bob replenished our Patron supply) and played cards while we waited for dinner to cook. I prepared us a tasty meal of gouda stuffed pork chops, brussels sprouts and my grandma's potatoes. Dessert was oreo truffles and nutter butter truffles. Afterwards, we went out to old Henderson to low roll and show them the Water St. casinos. We mainly played at El Dorado for 10-cent roulette and $2 blackjack, but we also stopped at Rainbow and Emerald Isle. No wins, but a good time was had.

Sunday was all about football. Frank usually catches the games at work, but since he's on PTO he ordered the day pass for the NFL Sunday Ticket. How I've missed the Red Zone Channel! It's the only way I can enjoy football all day long, it's non-stop action and no commercials. Hugh caught a flight back to Kentucky last night, but Bob is staying with us until Wednesday -- more good eats to be had. We took him to Sushi Mon last night. He loved it. Frank asked asked him to rate it on a scale of 1-10 based on his experiences including his time in Japan, he said it was an 8. Nice that to know Frank and I can recognize something good despite not having lengthy experience with Sushi/Japanese. After stuffing ourselves silly we went home, played Mille Bornes until the hot tub heated, and then soaked the rest of the night and tossed back a few beers.

Not quite a traditional Christmas, but it was merry and filled with cheer.

Ramblings

December 23, 2010
By golly! I saw the sun. It was only for a quick minute this morning when it raised above the clouds that had collected over the east valley. It blinded me for a moment. Then, it was gone. It might be shining at this very moment, but I wouldn't know. I've been chained to my desk since I arrived this morning, answering roof leak call, after roof leak call. Let me tell you, everyone who took this week off, chose a mighty fine time to do so. It's been crazed.

In five more hours, my holiday weekend will begin. Three fun-filled days lie ahead. I cannot wait.

Last night, we attempted to eat at Rio's buffet. We have two free to any of Harrah's, eh scratch that, Caesars Entertainment Properties. I think Spice Market is still likely the best, but it's been a decade since we've been to the feast at the Rio, we thought we'd give it a whirl. No dice. The place was pretty well dead, except the buffet. The line snaked all around the buffet and around the poker room. There is no buffet worth that wait, even if it were free.

We bailed, and went to Southpoint. I had heard Steak & Shake had opened. We went in, and were were impressed by the addition. The poker room is large and quite nice, and the sports book? Huge. The Race Book is now separate and it really caters to the horse player. This is the place for racing. We wandered over to Steak & Shake, we were greeted by another monster line. No burger was worth that wait. I told Frank I was 0-2, I'm not making another pick. Dinner was his choice. Raising Cane's it was, it hit the spot. Check out Vegas Values: Crazy about Cane's for details. I had been craving it since Monday. We went to Off the Strip that night for dinner, instead. I was burger'd out and had a hankering for fried chicken. I had a shitty buffalo chicken wrap. Needless to say it did little to satisfy my craving.

While we talking food, let me tell you about a lunch I had last week at the Palm. On of the project managers treated all of us ladies in the office. We had a private room in back. our choice of soup or salad, entree (steak or salmon) and dessert. I had the caesar salad. It had nice flavor and a ton of anchovies, six, I think. Usually, you'll get a filet or two. The sauteed salmon angelo which was a wine butter sauce with capers and artichokes. It was beautifully prepared and quite tasty. We also had shared plates of chips, fried onions and veggies. Dessert followed, key-lime pie or NY Cheesecake. I had the latter, it was rich and creamy. Service was attentive, we had two, that catered to the ten of us. Overall, it was a nice experience.

Time to run, duty calls. And calls, and calls.

Safe travels all! Merry Christmas!

Sick and Tired

December 22, 2010
Yeah, so those sniffles Frank had on the plane ride home turned into a full-blown cold. He loves to share, and his sicky germs were no exception. My head was heavy from pressure building the first couple days, by Friday night, I was hot and cold. Mainly, hot, which is wildly unusual for me. Frank and I never got out of bed on Saturday. We knocked out the recorded tv on dvr and shared a box of Kleenex. Sunday he went to work rested, and feeling much better. I, on the other hand, felt miserable. After running a few errands that had to be done, I curled up in a blanket and vegged in the recliner.

By Monday, my sinuses were raw and I was simply exhausted after a full day's work, skelelton crews and rainy days mean no time off for me. Still, we had a mini-christmas celebration with my mom, the biggest gift of all was the Bears winning their division. Mattered little to me, heresy with my Chicago roots, I know, but it's true. I never got into football until I could bet on it, suddenly it became far more interesting. We exhanged gifts and had a nice visit before I turned in early due to feeling like utter crap.

Tuesday, I dropped my mom off at the airport before work. She's spending the holidays with the family back in Chicago. She was dreading the cold and snow, but all that fun and laughter with Nicky will keep her warm. My sickness continued throughout the day, and just when I thought I was feeling better, the pressure and gunk made it's way to my left side. Joy. Frank played in a poker tournament so that allowed me time to sleep. I was out by 9pm. Yes, I am a rockstar. I know that's what you were thinking.

Today, unfortunately, is more of the same. I thought the ick was going to stay on the right, but it has indeed shifted left. Looking at the brightside, it should be on it's way out very soon.

A healthy dose of sunshine would make me feel worlds better. I have not seen the sun since we left Mexico last Tuesday. Las Vegas has been cloaked with clouds since, and it has rained practically non-stop since Sunday. Prior to that there were scattered storms. This is great for the roofing business, but I'm so beyond over it. I cannot even express it. At this point, sunshine feels like a distant memory. I told my sister, I forgot what the sun looks like. She said, I was being dramatic. Maybe? But it's true. I complain whenever clouds linger, but I don't remember days upon days of gloom. It feels like California in May or June.

My brother-in-law is coming for Christmas, he and his friend, get in Friday afternoon. He has a history of bringing cold and snow, I have a history of being sick when he visits. We have a deal this time, he won't bring the cold. I will be healthy. We'll see how than pans out.

Ultimo Día

December 21, 2010
Our last day, we never swam. It was too chilly. We had breakfast and lounged in the cabana until noon. We soaked it all in the best we could.









We had our last look, and packed it in. It was time to check out. The hotel was preparing for a wedding. What a great location!



Flowers in our room, opened beautifully on our last day.







I then collected my husband, we checked out and we were on our way to Playa for lunch. Any wild guesses, where? El Fogon, should come as no surprise. Only we were surprised to find them closed. They said they'd open at 1 o'clock, I had the whole conversation is spanish. I was proud. It never fails, as soon as I get comfortable with it, it's time to go. We walked over to another location by the Mega, but it was closed, too. We killed time in the Mega. What a nice grocery store! Then, walked back and arrived at one. I ordered 10 tacos al pastor. It was for Frank and I to share, but I confused our waiter. He didn't think I really wanted 10. I do! I teased about being gordito. It was fun. Not only was I comfortable speaking spanish, I was able to joke, too.

The tacos were excellent once again. We paid our tab, collected our car and drove to Cancun. It was so nice to leave healthy and in one piece. I didn't dare say a word until later... but I certainly appreciated it. We returned the car without issue. However, the shuttle back to the airport took forever. We were getting really nervous and wondered if we'd make it in time. We only had 1.5 hours until our flight. Luckily, the shuttle showed and dropped us off minutes later. We had already checked in online so it was only security to challenge us. That, it did. Our luggage was pulled aside because they would not allow Frank's deodorant to fly. While he waited with our bag, I ran to our gate to let them know we were there.

We're were due to board in ten minutes. Thankfully, we hurried along after that, Frank even had a few minutes to spare and he stopped to buy duty-free cigars with the rest of our pesos. By the time we returned to our gate, it was time to board. We got seated without issue, and once we were up in the air. I shared my excitement with Frank, we made it! The worst thing was Frank left with sniffles. Compared to previous trips, that was nothing. Amazingly, our flights out of Cancun and Phoenix were both on time, so much so we landed in Vegas 10 minutes early. We took a taxi to NYNY, we even had a nice driver. He didn't complain once about the short fare. I missed the neon and conveniences of home. We stopped at In-N-Out for double doubles. It was the prefect end to a great trip.

More of the Same

By now, you surely know how we roll. Our last full day was no different.











We had lunch at El Fogon. Delicious tacos al pastor for the both of us. We returned to the hotel, read, hammocked, and ultimately, relaxed.

We drove back to Playa Del Carmen for another meal at La Cueva del Chango. We both ordered the shrimp, we also had an appetizer of shrimp tacos and guacamole.







It was all very tasty. They even honored our request and sent us off with a cup filled with limes for us to take back to hotel. We were out, and needed more to go with the rest of the cerveza.

It was so chilly, this night, we never hammocked. We stayed in our room and told "campfire stories" that were actually humorous tales of times together. We laughed and laughed. It was plain fun.

We had the best intentions of finishing off the Modelo Especial, but we were just too tired. Or maybe just too cold. We cuddled up, and slept until morning came.

Swimmin' with the Fishes

After days of gazing at the reefs, watching the waves and spotting the occasional fish. We were anxious to take a peek at the reefs. We put the goggles we bought to use.













It was so neat to catch a glimpse of this world beneath the sea. We went from reef to reef until we tired. We rested in our cabana. Filled the morning and afternoon with the usual.... we had a drink and snack. And we got our daily dose of boobies.









Frank caught a crab scurrying across the sand. He went to check it out.







He took hilarious video, too. He uploaded it to his FB, but I can't figure out how to share. I'll have to upload to vimeo and share later.

Later that afternoon, Frank asked the hotel to borrow snorkle gear. They brought it over, and we were off to further investigate the reefs.

I've never in my life used snorkle gear. I had a HUGE learning curve. Huge. The flippers were killing my ankles because I was trying to stand. The mask was suffocating me because I kept breathing through my nose. I never even got to the mouth piece before I started hyperventilating - it was mix of laughter and terror from thinking I could not breathe. Thankfully, Frank stayed calm and walked me through each step. I figured if he could be patient with me the least I could do was try. I'm so glad I didn't give up. It was so neat to see all those fish! It was like swimming at the top of Mirage's fish tank. I used up most of my battery that morning so the photos I took only show a small bit of what we saw.

Check out the size of that conch shell. I saw another move. It was wild watching it squirm across the ocean floor.













It was a really neat experience. I told Frank it's worth looking into our own gear, and I'd really like to get a wet suit type thing to protect me from the sun. There is no way my fair skin could snorkle for any length of time. As it was, I only swam early morning and late afternoon to keep sunburns at a minimum. It was only this day I was pinkish. I fared well.

We showered and headed up to Playa for dinner. We had El Fogon, again. It's cheap and damn tasty. Plus, their tacos al pastor are the best! I let Frank in on this treat, and created a monster. He's now a big fan! We also shared a plate of goodies: grilled pork chop, ham, onion, bacon, chorizo y queso, potato, guac and soup.

We were beat, and retired soon after returning to the hotel.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

The next few days were much like the days before. Rather than rinse, later, repeat; it was swim, read, nap. We talked of going to Cozumel or back to Coba. But we enjoyed the time on the beach too much.

One afternoon, we did break away for another visit to Akumal. We thought this would be a good time to capture the hilarity of our rental car's size.







It's amazing he fit.



This is the road from our hotel to the highway.



Once we arrived in Akumal, we had lunch at La Cueva del Pescador. We loved the shrimp tacos, last visit. This time, though, they weren't as memorable. I had fish filet veracruz style. It was very good!





We had to pay to park (only 2 pesos with validation) so we walked around to get the most of it.



We spotted lots of fish and even a sting ray right on the shore.







We did a little shopping at the mart, we stocked up on cigars and bought goggles in hopes to check out the reefs near the hotel.

We went back to Al Cielo. Relaxed in the hammock, it's one of the things we do best, afterall. We worked up a hunger, and had dinner at the restaurant. I had been eager to try the salt baked fish, finally, the time had come.

We started with swordfish carpaccio. It was fine, but not something I'd order again.



The salt fish, though, was excellent. Only downside to these whole fish is the lingering bones you have to work around. The meat was tender and very juicy, not at all salty.





Bellies full, we returned to our room to wash the meal down with a couple cervezas before bed.

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