July, Already?

June 30, 2014
I suppose it's true that the years fly by faster and faster as you age. I'm learning this more and more; this year has flown (I know I said it last year and the year before, but damn, it keeps picking up speed). How is it possible that Christmas is less than six months away!?! The days are already getting shorter and summer just got here.

We hit a few milestones this month. As of June 14, we've had the apartment for a year. The gate and the speed bumps are still the biggest annoyance. The neighbor's dog in the houses across from us can be a bother, more so the owners than the dog. They let him bark for hours on end. The windows in the apartment are the worst feature. They are anything but energy efficient. They let the heat and the cold in, and when there is wind, I joke that we have a windchill factor indoors, because it whips through strong enough to make the verticle blinds fly about. Aside from that, it is fabulous. It's a breeze to clean, maintenance requires only a simple phone call and voila - it's fixed. We love the Silverado Ranch area, at first we were unimpressed with the food offerings but they've improved tremendously over the past year and more great places are coming soon.

On June 27 it had been a year since we turned over the keys to our house. We miss the hot tub. We miss the pool, but not the maintenance. We miss our large patio and grill, but not the tree that dropped seeds, leaves and bark 51 1/2 weeks a year. We do not miss the ants. I do not miss spending an entire day cleaning house or the back aches or achy feet after doing so. I do not miss carrying dirty laundry downstairs and clean laundry upstairs. I do not miss $450+ electric bills in the summer. I do not miss the neighbors' dogs pooping in our yard. I do not miss the guilt of forgetting to feed the fish in the pond. I do not miss cutting grass, tending to the landscaping or dealing with frozen pipes or ponds. I do not miss having to deal with whatever might break. It always took a lot more than a simple phone call to get it fixed.

It's probably needless to say, but we did decide to sign another 13 month lease at our apartment. We'll be staying put in the Silverado Ranch area until August 2015. We'll see what comes next.

One last milestone is that June 22 marked our eleventh year of living in Las Vegas. I still love it here. Though, I admit I need to leave and seek adventures elsewhere to remind me how good we have it. I take conveniences for granted and I've grown more cynical, but once stepping foot in another city, another state, or another country, I'm reminded that no where is perfect. The pros far outweigh the cons of life in Vegas, and as much as I yearn for new experiences. There is no place else that feels like home. I am right where I belong.

Flashback Friday: Monte Carlo Fire

June 27, 2014

Brookyln Bowl: Soja

June 26, 2014
They've captured the highlights of Brooklyn with this venue. It also seems like the corrected the flaws of local venues to produce one helluva place to catch a show. Awesome set up, TV's are everywhere so you don't miss a thing. Only complaint is the line at the main bar moves a bit slow. I always wish venues would offer a beer line only, but they never do...

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We saw Soja, it was a Tuesday night show, but the floor filled quickly after the opening act. We saw the opportunity for our group to upgrade to the VIP booths upstairs when we noticed availability prior to show time. We negotiated a fair price (if we didn't meet our food/beverage minimum, we could've moved to the bowling lanes after the show until we met it - I thought that was nice); got our bracelets and took over the booth and then bellied up to rail once Soja took the stage. Service was attentive. We couldn't get enough of the Drunken Palmers. Great show, venue and good time!

Wordless Wednesday: White Castle at Foodie Fest

June 25, 2014
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Sprinkles Cupcakes

June 24, 2014
I've heard all the raves and was anxious to try Sprinkles cupcakes. Once the newness of Linq wore off a bit Frank and I went over to see what all the fuss has been about. Frank is a sucker for Red Velvet so his choice was easy. I, on the other hand, wasn't in the mood for anything in particular. I asked which was their best seller? "Red Velvet." Ok, second best? "Chocolate Marshmallow." Sold!

Most, if not all cupcakes are $3.75 each.

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The Red Velvet fell flat. The frosting was too sweet and the cake was dry. The Chocolate Marshmallow was the better choice, but it was still pretty dry even with the marshmallow center, and I hated the rock hard candy placed on top.

I've had better, and I've had worse, but I won't be singing any praises for Sprinkles Cupcakes.

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Old School Pizzeria

June 23, 2014
A few times a month I go to North Las Vegas for work. Food options nearby are pretty limited since I don't care for fast food. Once you start heading west of I-15 on Craig options greatly improve. Yelp led me to Old School Pizzeria.

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It's across from The Cannery. It's a quaint space that sits no more than 30. They have a slew of toppings and very large slices. I find one to be plenty for lunch. I've tried the pepperoni and a combination of veggies. I like the pepperoni a bit better than my choice of veggie slice with mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. Slices come with a side of garlic dipping sauce. A slice and a drink set you back about eight bucks.

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The crust is crisp and the crust to sauce and cheese ratio is pretty balanced. It's a good slice of pie. They also dish up salads, pastas and a few daily specials. They are pretty famous for their garlic knots, but I'm yet to try them.

Old School Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Flashback Friday: Then & Now

June 20, 2014

The Waiting Continues

My mom and I met with the pulmonologist to go over the results of the bronchoscopy. Unfortunately, the test failed; the samples didn't provide any results. He has referred her to a thoracic surgeon. Mom has agreed to speak to him to see what her options are; he would perform the biospy if it's the lung or a lymph node. We're waiting to get an appointment. The silver-lining, I suppose, is that there is still a chance it's not cancer. However, the unknown is really wearing on her. At this point, a cancer diagnoses would be better than not knowing. All the research I've done seems to indicate in all likelihood it is cancer. Though, Lupus could be the wildcard, it does weird things and no two patients are the same so it gives some hope. Still, it's maddening to sit and wait, especially knowing that if these are cancerous cells could be growing and multiplying. Time is of the essence.

The Waiting Game

June 16, 2014
Thursday, my mom had the bronchoscopy. The procedure went well. Recovery was a little slow at first, but progressed as the day went on. Once I got her back to my house she slept and then ate, and seemed to feel considerably better. Her throat is sore and swollen. Coughing improved as the day went on and breathing was easier.

I met with the doctor after the procedure, he was not able to see the mass. He did spot the abnormal tissue and the protrusion in the lung so he took a needle biopsy. He also flushed the area to retain loose cells. So, two samples were taken. They're likely not enough for conclusive results. We knew this was a possibility, but hoped it wasn't the case. I was so disappointed. I wanted him to get a good sample for conclusive results. I don't want to subject my mom to additional tests. She just doesn't have it in her. Now, we wait. I don't know what to hope for, so I'm just going to hope she rests and regains some strength in the meantime.

Flashback Friday: Making Way for Encore

June 13, 2014


Remnants of the Desert Inn are cleared away to make room for Encore.



Sugar & Spice, And All Things Nice

June 12, 2014
That's what little girls are made of. My niece is healthy, but already giving her mom grief. This pregnancy has been a lot harder on my sister. She still had two months to go. We celebrated her impending arrival over Memorial Day weekend. The morning after my brother-in-law's wedding, I flew from Oakland to Chicago-Midway.

Thankfully, there was an early flight and it had no delays. I was able to arrive early enough to help set up. It was a good thing too, they were in the weeds preparing for the party. We got it knocked out pretty well by the time guests arrived. It wasn't your typical shower, it was held in the backyard, we barbequed and had a bonfire. Everyone was welcome.

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Our family hasn't had many little girls and I believe Addison will be the first in Jeff's family. Ribbons, bows, and pink dominated the shower gifts. She will be one well dressed little girl. We all cannot wait to meet her.

After the celebration, we had quality sister time. We made returns and purchased new items for Addison. Had a bedding crisis. We also learned that cribs today are not made for short people. All the shopping wore us out. Thankfully, we were well fueled by Lou Malnati's pizza. The butter crust is delicious, but they pile on the sausage which creates pools of unneccesary grease. It was a first for me, and I'd try it again, but I'd ask for easy sausage.

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I also tried Culver's for the first time. It was the fried cheese curds that swayed me to try them and they were delicious. I didn't try the custard, heresy, I know. A big time favorite for folks back home is Hog Wild. I tried it many moons ago at the old location and recall not being too fond of the pulled pork. Everyone insists the pork chop is where it is at, so I made it priority to try it this trip. It is a bargain, it's a stellar chop for less than ten bucks with two sides. They have mild BBQ sauce on the table, but if you're like me and like more bold flavor do yourself a favor and ask for the spicy. It's not real hot, but it has some kick which adds depth and complements the sweetness well.

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Amy let Nicky play hooky one day so we could go with my dad to Starved Rock. I was last there in my late-teens. Frank, our friend Bill and I camped. My memory from that trip was how badly we were feasted on by mosquitos. Turns out mosquitos there are still mighty hungry, 15 years later (I forget how much I hate those buggers). When I was a little, my parents always stopped at Duffy's for dinner after Starved Rock. We broke tradition a bit by stopping there first for lunch, but little else has changed. The building is smaller than I remember, but I was happy to see the ladies in the bathtub remain. I swear the corn dog was my go to menu item as kid, but this time I went with medium-rare burger topped with mushrooms and swiss. It hit the spot. Duffy's may very well be where my fondess for Irish bars began.

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For those who don't know Starved Rock, it is a state park that sits on the banks of Illinois River in Utica, IL. Legend has it that the Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes trapped the Illi on the sandstone butte (that overlooks the river) until they died of starvation. Hence, the name Starved Rock. The park is the most scenic in the area, there are 13 miles of hiking trails and it offers other recreational sports. There are cliffs and canyons, waterfalls are common. My favorite time to see the falls is when they are frozen in winter months. We didn't do the trails near the falls, we stuck to those along the river. It was warm and muggy, the air was thick and we pooped out faster than we expected. Still, we had a nice day with my dad.

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It was a whirlwind trip, and of course, it went too quick, but I'm happy I got to spend some time with my sister before she's a mother of two. Nick has grown so fast. He's since officially finished first grade. Minecraft is his world. I'm a bit sad to watch him grow into a young man, but I'm happy to see he remains sweet and helpful, and he has a heart of gold just like his momma. Amy & Jeff recently moved into a bigger house on the same property they rented before so they'll have more room for their growing family. It's far more spacious, I suspect they'll be happy there. I'm so happy for them.

Love is Love

June 11, 2014
Often times, I'm ashamed at how ignorant this great nation can be. But I'm given hope when we right wrongs. For example, I'm incredibly proud of the strides that have been made for marriage equality. 19 states get it right. There is still a long way yet to go, but it's a start. When I was young, my aunts couldn't be united by law; as I grew older and understood that they were unable to marry, it made me incredibly sad. Love is love. You love someone, you want to be committed them. Period. That doesn't change when you are the same sex. Fortunately, more and more people are coming to this realization and it fills me with joy.

When I learned that my brother-in-law would be marrying his longtime partner in San Francisco. I was positively thrilled. There are no greater celebrations than those of love. I anxiously awaited their big day. A few days before, I was honored when I was asked to photograph their nuptials. What a special privilege. I've always believed that couples should choose a celebration that is unique to them, and the only rule when you wed is to do it your way. They did just that, they wanted to get the legal side of things out of the way first and foremost. Frank and I witnessed their legal marriage at San Francisco City Hall. It was short and sweet. It must be the most stunning city hall in the country. The architecture is just lovely.

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Two days later, was the real deal. Bob and Hugh were married at Muir Woods, the ceremony was officiated by a friend and loved ones were in attendance. Their vows were moving and simply perfect. The brought us to tears. Strangers became impromptu wedding guests and they were even touched. Their dear friend's grandmother was also in attendance, when asked if she ever thought she'd see a gay wedding she had the best response "No, but here it is and it is beautiful."

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Congratulations to the happy couple! I wish them a lifetime of love and laughter.

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