December 30, 2016

The Happy of 2016

I have heard so many complaining about 2016 being the worst year ever. I'm not sure if the media is to blame or if it's due to politics, celebrity deaths, or maybe, they've suffered actual turmoil. It's been a pretty OK year for me. Sure, there have been kinder and less stressful years, but none were as bad for me as 2015. I survived that, and others will survive 2016. If we all take time to look back, I'm sure we could compile a list of things, moments or memories that brought the happy into our every day. Mine is something like this:

Since Frank and I shared our home this year; we had little time alone - just the two of us - something we've taken for granted in past years. It made our lazy days in Nicaragua, unexpected time in San Diego and gallivanting all over San Francisco more special. We were free to be us. No distractions.

Baby giggles, seeing the world through a toddler's eyes and witnessing the curiosity of a pre-teen was simply the best! That joy, wonder and interest is the magic that makes one's heart full.

Appreciating the gift of everyday, getting another chance to try again, to do better, or maybe, even, fall apart.

Often, it is as simple as watching Carpool Karaoke with James Corden.

December 29, 2016

That's a Wrap

Now that Christmas is over, can we move along to summer? Please! How's that for a bah humbug? The warmth might not return quite as fast as I'd like, but at least the days are getting longer. I might see the sun again soon. I can't be the only one that misses daylight, can I? I'm lacking vitamin D in a bad way.

That said, I hope you all found the magic of Christmas this holiday. I had these cute santa babies to help keep me in the holiday spirit. Addy is beginning to have an understanding of the holiday happenings, and Lex was pretty oblivious, but she did seem to enjoy the ornaments best for her first Christmas. Santa didn't pay Frank & I visit this year since there were no kiddos in the house, but I think he would've enjoyed Pipeline Porter & nutella stuffed sugar cookies as much as I did. He did bring the kiddos all sorts of goodies - Nick must have been especially good this year, he was thrilled to find a PS4 under the tree.

On christmas day Mike, Tuco and Blaine came out from Pahrump. My dad, Amy, Jeff and the kids came over, along with Frank's uncle, and later, his cousin and her boyfriend too. I cooked a ham and the fixings. Parmesan salad and Snow tunnel cake too to keep up mom's tradition. I thought this Christmas might have been a little easier since it was the second without her, but the sting of sadness didn't fade a bit. Even so it was nice to enjoy the best gift of the season, gathering together.

December 21, 2016

I Choose You - A Pokemon Birthday

Last month, we celebrated Nick's 10th birthday. Like most kid's his age he's been obsessed with Pokemon. He told us months before his birthday that he wanted a Pokemon themed party. I looked into various options and narrowed down party ideas to two and I let Nick have the final say. Instead of a painting party (Pikachu) he chose a party at home with a bounce house. I wasn't sure a bounce house would fit in the backyard, but I measured twice and it'd be tight, but it would indeed fit. I didn't account for the bounce house to move with all the kids jumping inside of it so one of our bushes took a beating, but otherwise the bounce house was a great success. The Incredible Hulk didn't quite fit the theme, but no one seemed to mind.

A couple months prior to the party, I bought the Pokemon decorations from a Facebook garage sale group, $7 well spent! Invites and Thank you cards I downloaded from Etsy. I taped dollar store table clothes together to create pokeballs and I made a Pikachu balloon that was a crowd favorite. I found free printables online to dress up odds and ends that tied everything together. I also created a game called, Pikachu Pop. I stuffed small Pokemon toys (Amazon) into balloons and had the kids catch them all by popping the balloons on their butts. It was a frenzy of screams and giggles - a real hit! Amy had a friend make the Master Pokeball Cake. It was the perfect center piece for all of our snacks. Treat bags were Pokemon cups (party city) filled with treats and Pokemon wristbands (Amazon). Said and done, a fun time was had by all.

December 19, 2016

Monday Musings

BRRR! It's cold. I don't expect any pity, it's likely far colder wherever you are than here in Sin City, but still my hands and feet are icy. I'm bundled in two coats as I sit here in front of the PC. This winter stuff is for the birds. Wait! Even they don't do winter. I should make like a bird and migrate south because the desert isn't cutting it.

Anyhow, can you believe this time next week Christmas will be over? And we'll be waiting to welcome 2017. Pure craziness.

I thought I'd keep a more regular schedule after my last update, but it wasn't in the cards. The past month has been a complete whirlwind. It began with a team meeting called at work. The owners gathered us around and shared that they had been in negotiations to sell the business. It wasn't a huge surprise, but I didn't know how close we came to laying off 95% of the office staff, myself included. They couldn't seem to agree on a number so they've decided to go the distance, not sell and instead invest in us and the company's future. Changes are underway, but it appears we won't be losing our jobs. As a result, I find myself with little down time. At home, our pc is toast - Frank started shopping for the pieces to build a new one, but his time has been monopolized by other things so that's the cause for the crickets around here.

I hope everyone had a lovely thanksgiving. My dad and aunt arrived Nov 15, it was nice to catch up a bit before the holiday and the rest of the visitors arrived. My mother in law arrived next, and then Bob & Hugh flew in just in time for the gluttony to begin. Sixteen of us gathered around the table noshing on a spread that consisted of mixed greens & apple salad, yeast rolls, cranberries, sausage stuffing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and very moist turkey. And later, apple and pumpkin pies. Let's not forget the several bottles of wine that kept things merry. With full bellies, we battled each other with hilarious rounds of Fibbage, Cards Against Humanity and other games. You simply cannot beat a house that's full of loved ones and laughter.

There was no Black Friday shopping for me. Instead, Frank and I took Bob & Hugh to see Lucky Dragon and we also checked out Desert Wind Coffee Roasters beforehand. What a great coffee shop, and they share my love of Breaking Bad. Very cool. Then, on their last night, we all had dinner at Joe's. It never disappoints! The stone crab and steaks are always stellar. Afterwards, the six of us went over the Rio for a tour and tasting at the Wine Cellar. It's such a gem, if you've never been, it's definitely worth a visit. Next, we saw Rock of Ages. Too bad the show ends it's run in January. It was a hoot.

December 1st we celebrated Frank's birthday. His gift was rather bittersweet for me - Amy, Jeff and the kids moved out. I'm thrilled they found a townhouse to rent. It's in a great area, it's very nice and it provides them with some much needed space, three bedrooms and a two car garage. It's only a few minutes from us so Nick is able to stay in the same school and we'll be nearby so I won't have to miss them too much. Sharing a home for almost a 1.5 years has its challenges, but also its rewards. Watching the kids learn and grow day to day was something I'll always cherish - even if it meant I was sick - A LOT. Our house was busting at the seams with the seven of us, eight if you count my dad or nine when Mike would stay (Pahrump is far, after all) and now it's rather bare. We have big plans for some home improvements, but first we must narrow down some options. We also took advantage of low interest rates by refinancing the house - so long PMI and we're reducing our loan to 15 years - If all goes well, we'll be debt free by 51!

Even with the kids out of the house, we still managed to have one last bug make the rounds. I think Nick picked up this one from school. It ran through everyone. Frank and I weren't even safe - babysitting for a few hours was all it took to become infected. The downtime gave us an opportunity to binge watch some Netflix shows. Goliath and The Crown were both very good. It had been far too long since I was excited about a show. Well, besides my guilty pleasure This is Us.

And now, we're just days from Christmas. My shopping was pretty quick and painless - Thank you, Amazon Prime and Etsy. I'll be hosting Christmas day. This year will be a little different than last year, since we all won't be under one roof. We'll lose the magic of Santa paying us a visit, but Addison is filled with wonder and it should make for a pretty special holiday. Lex will likely enjoy the wrapping paper more than the gifts themselves, and Nick will tear through them in record time I'm sure - but that's all part of the fun. Wherever you are, wherever you go I hope your Christmas is merry and bright.

December 2, 2016

Lucky Dragon

Last week, rather than Black Friday shopping, we went down to Lucky Dragon to see the first newly built casino since Cosmopolitan opened five years ago. Access was easy from Sahara Ave and the garage was a piece of cake to navigate, the parking garage elevators lead you directly into the casino. The casino itself is smaller than I expected, but well laid out. It doesn't feel the least bit cramped. It's incredibly clean, stylish and rather comfortable. The slot club is offering free play $8-$888 for new sign ups. It's worth a visit.

I brought my camera to snap photos, but I foolishly forgot to add the memory card. So, cellphone photos it is.

November 23, 2016

Say What?

Vegas Golden Knights. Really? Like many, I don't like the name or the logo. Even so, I'm still excited for hockey and maybe it'll grow on me? I'd love the explanation behind the use of Golden, though. I'm at a total loss. Is "the" not cool anymore? For so long, all you had to do was stick THE before - well, anything - to make it hip. THEhotel. The Buffet. Those Angeles Kings better take note. Shark fans I hope you don't mind going by Jose, "san" just might be the next to go. And why a spartan and not a knight? It reminds me a bit of the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. Speaking of, maybe the name will morph into, Vegas Nights? One could hope. All that said, let's stick to what's important - the puck will drop in Sin City.

November 21, 2016

What will it be?

It's likely you've heard that Las Vegas is finally getting its first professional sport team. The NHL has granted us an expansion team. The name and logo will be revealed tomorrow at the T-Mobile Arena. For months, now, there has been much speculation about the name, I've heard all sorts of ideas tossed out... Scorpions, Desert Hawks, Silver Nights, The Gambler's and Aces. A while back, Frank and a couple friends committed to purchasing season tickets; about two weeks ago we ponied up the cash and we officially became season ticket holders. The charge on the credit card went through as Black Nights. Which happens to be the name I heard most often, but it seems lately all indicators point to the Desert Knights as the official name. Tomorrow, we'll know for sure.

It's all pretty exciting, even if I'm not the biggest hockey fan. I'm looking forward to seeing my first game. I've only seen the Wrangler's play before - yawn. I supported the Blackhawks throughout all their championships, but I'll be the first to admit I'm a total bandwagoner. I only watched games in the post season. Everything I know about hockey I learned watching playoff games at Windy City Beefs N Dogs with friends that happen to be diehard hawks fans. Nevertheless, we're all eager to support our local team.

November 15, 2016

Hello? Is this thing on?

I didn't plan for a month's hiatus, but that's just what occurred. The days clipped by at record pace, it took me a bit to recover from being sick, we took a couple trips, celebrated Nick's birthday and Halloween. Then, of course, there was the historical events of the past couple weeks - that taught us ANYTHING is possible. I mean, c'mon, who'd believe it, if you told them in 2016 the Cubs would win the World Series and Trump would be our 45th president. Just a short while ago, one would think it'd be a cold day in hell before that would happen. But, here we are.

Let's begin with Halloween. Nick tired quickly from Trick or Treating - Kids, today? Addy loved having kids come to the door for candy. She'd happily hand it out so long as she kept a piece for herself. She's a big fan of M & Ms and suckers so she was pretty energized going door to door. Lex tuckered out early, she fell asleep in my arms while I was handing out candy. She's the world's lightest sleeper, but she was completely oblivious to the noise on this occasion.

I'm not sure that there could be a cuter lamb or witch?!

Nick turned 10 a few days later. We celebrated with dinner at Carnegie Deli and this Sunday we'll host his birthday party with friends and family. It's Pokemon themed. So, we're working on clever ways to tie the celebration together. It shall be fun!

October 13, 2016

Portland Tales

Two years ago, we had the best time in Portland. I was eager to return. Frank's been back once or twice, but it never worked out for me to join him. Well, not until recently that is. Spirit ran a deal, like they often do, and I had just enough vacation time left so it was easy to pull the trigger for long weekend getaway. I was so looking forward to the trip! Of course, I started feeling sick a couple days before we were set to leave. All you need is plans, and germs inevitably strike. Nevertheless, I rested and was determined to be well for the trip. Unfortunately, the sickness had other plans. Still, I had every intention of making the most of it.

We flew out on Saturday morning, our flight was fantastic. It was on time, it wasn't full so we were able to move around a bit and the flight attendants were friendly and one in particular was a real comedian. After arriving in Portland, we sought out Alamo to pick up our rental car. I had booked it a few days prior for a hot rate on Hotwire. It would seem every other traveler had done the same, because we found the shuttle bus line about 40 people deep. That shuttle filled and we still had enough left behind to fill another bus. We were met with another long line at the rental counter, thankfully, the kiosk lines moved more quickly. We were able to retrieve our reservation that way, which saved quite a bit of time. From that point, it was a breeze and we were soon on our way, we had our pick from a row of vehicles and Frank chose a GMC Arcadia.

We were starved, I opened up my bookmarks on Yelp and saw that Tasty N Sons was nearest to us. I loaded up directions and we were off, or so we thought; instead, we found ourselves in a traffic jam. It was rather unexpected for a Saturday afternoon. At least, we caught a break by finding an open parking spot right outside the restaurant. There was no open seating so we left to wait yet again. We were seated just before brunch ended. We chose a bunch of small plates to share. Each was OK, but every dish was flawed in one way or another. It was rather disappointing.

Our home for the next few nights was a studio near Ladd's Addition. Yes, I booked an Airbnb based on its proximity to Apex Bar. We loved it so much last time, I knew we'd be spending more time there. After securing the reservation I was thrilled to learn not only was it close, but it was actually across the street. Kismet, baby! It was a kickass set up, it had everything we could possibly need. And the location? Superb! It was the perfect home base for our adventures.

We sort of struck out at Apex, though. The ciders I tried were good, but nothing exceptional. Frank wasn't digging the beers he chose either. So, we left for the neighboring Beer Mongers. Which we also loved last visit. There, I found a sour cider that was special and Frank took a liking to a Weiss beer.

Last trip, we found Tasty N Alder right before leaving for the airport, and it was fantastic. They had the best fish tacos and I've been dreaming of them since. So, when we started to feel a bit hungry we drove downtown for a fix. We knew there'd by a wait, we checked in and wandered around the block to pass the time. We sat at the counter near the kitchen, it was cool watching them work. We had a great charcuterie board, and chose a handful of other dishes, but nothing was particularly good. The fish tacos? Well, they were pretty gross. No joke. Talk about a bummer.

I had been pumping myself full of cold medicine all day to keep afloat, but I was waning fast. Frank was still hungry and determined to find some good eats. Veritable Quandry was Frank's favorite restaurant from previous visits so I looked that up, but it had closed. I threw in the towel. Frank took over and found an Argentine restaurant that sounded promising. Thankfully, Lechon was quite good. We had sweet corn and brisket empanadas and a glazed pork cheeks.

As much as I wanted to stay out and play. My body wouldn't have it. I was wiped out and pretty miserable. I drugged myself with cough syrup and went straight to bed. Unfortunately, neither Frank or I caught more than a few winks. I coughed. all. night. long.

We got an early start Sunday morning, we had plans to meet friends in Eugene at 11 o'clock. We grabbed breakfast at Pine State Biscuits before we hit the road. Frank loved their biscuits and gravy. The biscuits were pretty amazing. I tried the hashbrowns loaded with cheese, onions, ham and mushrooms. It was quite good, all except for the ham. It was oddly dry and hard.

The drive to Eugene was easy. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings to watch football. So, all was right in the world. Our friends met us there. We've been friends with Bill since high school and a few years ago he moved from Chicago to Bandon, OR to be with Anne. It was fun to catch up, after the games we had a bite at a bar near Putters. Then, we made a stop at Human Bean for a granita (just for you, mom) & espresso beans. We also checked out the Willamette River, and later, tagged along with them while they shopped at Costco. We've never been before. Bears! Oh my!

We had a late dinner at Pok Pok. Even close to closing there was still a wait for a table. We ordered the famous wings, eggplant salad, boar collar meat. ribs and a side of sticky rice. The marinade for the collar meat was great, but everything else fell a bit short. It seemed to be the theme for all of our favorites from last time.

Afterwards, Frank went to Apex for a beer and cigar. I was too tired to join him. I took a larger dose of cough syrup and had a fairly restful night.

It had been pretty rainy and cool, thus far, and the weather never improved. Each day, I'd hope to wake refreshed and feeling better, but relief never came. I had wanted to hike to Elowah Falls, but I just didn't have it in me. Instead, we drive the scenic byway and stopped at Lotourelle Falls since it was right off the roadside. The sights all along the Columbia River Gorge are stunning so we still enjoyed ourselves. I suggested we check out Thunder Island Brewery before heading back, and the view was lovely, but the beers were duds. I vowed to pick nothing else for the rest of the trip.

For lunch, Frank chose Guero's Tortas. Which were very good, the food truck trailer park also had a good gyro spot and some tasty draft beers. I was already wiped out. So, we napped back at the studio as another storm passed thru. The dreariness and cool air definitely made for ideal sleeping conditions. We watched Monday Night Football at Beer Mongers. Later, Frank chose Stammtisch for dinner, which was a gem. The beer was excellent, we also enjoyed potato pancakes, spatzle, sausages and pasta with leek fondue and brussel sprouts.

Again, I retired early. Hopeful I'd be well enough to enjoy our final day, but no such luck I felt worse than ever. It didn't stop us from one last breakfast at Pine State Biscuits.

After, Frank took me to Pittock Mansion. On a clear day you can see five volcanoes, this day the clouds hung low and only downtown could be seen.

We were in the mood for a snack so we sought out Gastro Mania for bacon wrapped grape leaves. They were mighty tasty! Frank enjoyed a gyro, as well.

Then, we wrapped up our trip at the Waterfront Park. I made a pitstop at Bean & Tree for an Oregonian Coffee since I was such a fan last time. You guessed it? It wasn't as good as I remembered.

We sat under a tree to keep dry and watched rainbows form over the Hawthorne bridge to pass the time. Before we knew it, it was time to return the rental and fly home from PDX. Despite the disappointing experiences, endless drizzle & chills, and even, having felt so crummy; we still managed to have a good time.