Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Yeah..... happy about the White Sox win.

I was totally expecting them to blow it.

I was even happy with the post-game coverage when I got to see My Future Second Husband Joe Crede on the field for a few seconds. I hope he has his pon-poms ready for what is coming. It'll be the only action he gets. And sadly, when he likely gets trader to a new team next season, I'll have to re-fill the Future Second Husband slot.

AJ does look pretty nice with the blonde dye job and I am a sucker for a bleach job.....

Monday, September 29, 2008

Make it at home

Maybe partly because I am married to a hermit, I am a fan of trying to create versions of stuff I like out in my own kitchen. It's kinda fun, even.

One sandwich-ish place I have much love for is Roly Poly. Apparently, there was one just a few blocks from my house for awhile, but it closed. I didn't know what I was missing.

There is one kinda near work. I don't make it there as much as I would like, currently due to a lot of road construction that makes the driver kinda frustrating. But I have tried versions of my own stuff out of my own kitchen. Most of it is just stuff wrapped in a tortilla, sometimes grilled. Done a version of the Hickory Cristo.... turkey, brie, spinach, mushrooms served with a horseradish sauce. The favorite Basil Cashew Chicken is also very easy to do at home. Chicken salad, some cashew pieces and Thai chili sauce.....
Sriracha. Thai Chili Sauce. Thai Chili-Garlic Sauce. Rooster Sauce. Whatever you call it, it's good.

Easy to find in the Asian section of most well-stocked supermarkets. Espeically easy around here, with large Asian populations. Good on stir fry, pork chops, mac & cheese and anything that you would put any other hot sauce on.

For the Basil Cashew Chicken... make some chicken salad, flop it in a torilla, top with some cashews, a squeeze of hot sauce, top with lettuce, wrap and enjoy. You can also mix the sauce into the chicken salad but it turns kinda pink, and I can understand that some people have problems with pink food. Especially where chicken is involved.

Not too much happening around here. Baked, breaded chicken breasts for dinner tonight, pork chops on deck for tomorrow. I did make some pumpkin puree tonight... I'm getting a little anxious for Turkey Day to arrive. I love Turkey Day. We go over to my in-laws. Since my mother in law cooked for several years on a stove with one working burner, she was happy to have help and have me bring a couple things. It started with a pecan pie. Somewhere along the way, I started also bringing green beans. Since I love sweet potatoes but not everyone does, I was asked to bring a sweet potato dish at one point. I usually like to bring an appetizer-ish thing. I have designs this year to bring a real, rolled-crust fruit pie. And then I saw a reicpe in the new Everyday Food for a pumpkin/chocolate tart. I. Must. Have.

I do plan to take the day before Turkey Day off work so I can just focus on a day in the kitchen. It works out well, it's a long-standing tradition in the hubby's family to eat McD's the night before Thanksgiving.

So.... pumpkin puree for the tart is already done. And this weekend I stocked up on pecans that are now in the freezer, waiting for Turkey Day (I've had panics where I've been unable to find them when I put off my shopping, and I never want that to happen again).

I guess it's officially fall around here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Does anyone really ever get everything done that they want to get done on a weekend?

I sure as heck don't.

Yesterday, I hoped to get up, go take my truck for an oil change, go get the elliptical I wanted, stop at another tile place to try to find the mystery matching tile for our tile, and go to the grocery stores.


Woke up later than I wanted, oil change didn't happen. Waited for the hubby to get ready so we could go to get the father-in-law's Suburban so we could load up the elliptical. Went to the store, and they were out of stock. And the people who walked into the store just before us were headed to get the last one at a nearby store. I was not pleased.

Hubby didn't want to go to the tile store.

On the way home, he did make an unexpected to me stop at Menards. For the bathroom re-do, we need a new door for the linen closet. Actually good thinking to get it while we had the truck. Went to look at the doors and since they had nothing that came finished, I figured it'd be best/easiest to just get a mirrored door so we don't need to add to the to-do list. Besides, it is kinda nice to have a full length mirror SOMEWHERE. Aaaaannnd then found out the hubby didn't bother to measure the door. I was pretty sure we needed a 24-inch bifold door. He thought 30. We went home and measured. It was 24. Back to Menards.

Got the door, got some ceiling paint since the stuff we had dried out. Wooo.

Hubby dropped the goods and me at home, and said he was bringing the truck back and would be back "in a few minutes". I nuked a Lean Cuisine (the Tortilla Crusted Fish is not nearly as gross or disappointing as some of their other fish entrees I've had) and gobbled it up. Thought about making a menu plan and list, but I figured the hubby would be back quick enough where I could sort through that stuff while I was doing the shopping.

I waited.

And waited.

Aaaaaaaannnnnnnd waited.

I do not know why I have yet to figure out that even when the hubby KNOWS I have errands to run and he says he'll be back "in a few minutes" it means at least an hour. And it's not because his parents won't let him escape that quickly.... it's because he then decideds to spent an hour or an hour and a half running his own errands. I wouldn't mind if he told me he'd be doing it and didn't leave me waiting like an idiot. Oh, and I would also be less annoyed if he didn't take the keys to his Camaro so I could use that, or not park the Cougar in right in front of his Camaro.

I was pretty fuming by the time he finally got home. I basically brushed by him and was gone.

I made it as far as the store parking lot, muttering many bad words, before I turned the car around and headed home. I was too pissed off to do the shopping.

Came home and the brother in law was over helping to yank out the vanity upstairs (holy crap! Actual WORK on the bathroom? Wasn't expecting the hubby to get any of that done this weekend) and when the hubby asked why I was back, I muttered something about being too pissed off and he could have TOLD me he'd be gone that long and I pouted on the couch.

Hubby must have figured out I was peeved, since he tried to be nice after that. Apparently being cranky makes me tired, since I crashed out on the couch and he didn't wake me until 7pm. He even went out and picked up White Castles for dinner.

Today I wanted to get going at a reasonable hour to head to yet another tile store and then get the shopping done. Didn't wake early, no tile store. But I did hit the grocery store, Trader Joes, Whole Foods (who knew that crab is actually cheaper there than at the regular store??) and two produce marts. Also did a stroll through Half Priced Books and picked up "Julie & Julia" and hit GFS to get some "I don't care if I leave them somewhere" serving bowls since I plan on making some guac for a party this weekend.

Since I picked up veal bones at BOTH the produce marts, I roasted those so I can have a go at Michael Ruhlman's veal stock. Since it's supposed to cook for a massive 10 hours I don't know when the heck I will finish it, but I at least have it started.

Made Gordon Ramsey's crabmeat & eggs & chives for dinner with some roasted potatoes and asparagus. Yummy.

Laundry load number 3 is in the washer. Kitchen is cleaned. Dishes are done.

Still don't have tile for the bathroom.

Don't have my elliptical.

Didn't get my oil changed.

But, I am enjoying Julie & Julia so far.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Freakin' Out The Squares and Chicago Sports

Is it really something kids do.... drive around and try to freak out other people in their cars??

I came to teenage passenger and driving age in the late 80s/early 90s. For those I hung out with, all we really ever did was just blast the metal/hard rock and roll down the windows. It was likely going to freak out or upset some people. All good.

Heck... it's still good now. I like having the windows rolled down, stereo blasting, as I sing along to some tunes.

I had two incidents driving to work this week (office is very near a high school) where groups of kids in cars were apparently trying to "freak out the square" with me. And when the hell did I become a square?!?!?!

I must now interrupt to mention a bit about Chicagoans and their sports teams. Other than some bright times during the Michael Jordan years, a true Chicago sports fan has the complete and utter belief that no matter what the past or present.... their team is going to blow it. Not "maybe" blow it... they WILL. We've seen it. It happens to every team, we just think it happens to us more than others.

But there is one breed of Chicago sports fan that always believes their team has a shot until the season is over (even if they didn't make the playoffs... ).... the fair-weather Chicago Cubs fan. These are people who don't pay attention to anything having to do with baseball other than to yell out "WOOOOOOO!!!! CUBBIES!" when they're at a bar and mentioned on Sports Center. And don't expect them to know, five minutes later, if the report of was a win or loss. Just expect them to go "WOOOOOOO!!!! CUBBIES!" again as they head to the bar for another beer.

I am a White Sox fan. Born and raised. The night I first met the hubby (not counting the day I recall a "very cute guy" who came into the McD's I was working at, which was about a week before this) he was wearing a Sox jersey. Now... around Chicago (minus parts of da sout' side) this is pretty much a rebel behavior. Especially in the west/northwest burbs we hail from. It was a very positive sign. If I'd have ever brought home someone with a business suit and a six figure job, the family would have not approved if he was a Cubs fan. If I'd have brought home Marilyn Manson in a Sox jersey, they'd love him (although I wouldn't. Man... c'mon.... you left DITA? Stupidest. Man. Ever.). Somehow... luckily... in all the matchups in my family.... we've been lucky enough to find fellow lost Sox fan families. It's a good thing.

Ok. Time to wake up, people. Back to the freakin'.

A few weeks back, the hubby put a Sox sticker on the back of the truck. He was so proud. Much like my parents.... his family was raised to a belief of "no stickers on cars". But.... we're fans. We love our boys. And I was proud to have it on my car.

Until..... the Cubs clinched the division title. It's a division title. It means you'll get to October and nothing more. C'mon... Chicago team. They'll blow it somehow, they always do.

But the challenge is out there... up until this week, the Sox weren't doing so horribly (well, actually, a mix of good highs and bad bad lows) so there was talk of the Sox also making division. Until the Twins.

Yeah. We got our asses kicked. We choked. We are not surprised.

But I did not expect to get two rounds of "WOOOOOOO!!!! CUBBIES!" from cars full of high school kids this week. Hey.... fair weather Cubbie fans... be aware... when we started our run, we were still convinced our team would find a way to blow it. And a big part of the magic was.... they didn't. They BROUGHT it. And until the words were said, we really didn't believe it.

So please... fair-weather Cub fans.... give us the same dignity we showed, and don't rub it in the face. There is still a LOT of ground to cover before it is over.

And really.... a Sox fan all my life... picked on for being a Sox fan (a lot of us were).... is a "WOOOOOOO!!!! CUBBIES!" supposed to freak me out?? After the first incident... there was a truck with construction guys who saw it all, they pulled up on the offending car and there were shouts, and they then pulled up next to me and dude in the passenger seat apoligized for "da kidz" and told me I was sexy for "havin' dat sticker". Sox fan stick together, ya'll.

And reflecting now... dude.... seriously... I'm like a square now? I used to party with rock stars! I am not a square!!!!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tabasco Shrimp Tacos with Spiked Sour Cream

I always forget home much I like this recipe.

Flavored sour cream, spiced shrimp, thrown in a tortilla. Easy and always good.

Took a cue from someone else and cooked the onion until it was slightly golden before tossing the shrimp in the pan. The sweetness of the onion made for a very nice counterpoint to all the heat.

I bought some of the "homemade" salsa at the produce mart yesterday, which was very good. I don't know how they do it, but their salsa is always a very nice balance between tomatoes and spice (and even just the slightest bit of cilantro so I don't mind it too much).

In other news..... Heroes!!! Wooooo!!! And a shirtless Mohinder for a good portion of the episode(s) tonight. I'm a happy woman.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So how did you use the veal stock anyway??

Bordelaise sauce!!


I made it to pour over some steaks and mushrooms for dinner.

I may not want to marry it, but I'd surely have a nooner with it, if it ever asked.

Carrots, shallots, mushrooms, garlic, thyme and parsley.

Pour on the red wine. The FL cookbook suggests a Cab. I don't drink Cab. I had none on hand. I used Merlot.

Simmer, simmer, simmer, until, the wine has almost reduced....

Then dump in a cup of veal stock.....

The cook until it's a nice sauce-like consistency. Strain off the solids, and pour liberally all over someone and lick it off. It's also pretty good on beef.

Now.... the hubby usually puts steak on his ketchup. I understand some of the appeal of it... tomato, vinegar, spices, it's not the world's worst thing.

Bordelaise is kinda like a combo of ketchup and steak sauce on crack. Nekkid. Running while the cameras from COPS are fixed on it. It's good. Damn good.

Hubby did not partake. His loss. And my gain. I've re-commited to my diet efforts, so it looks like it's a boring week of Lean Cuisine lunches ahead for me. One of them is their meatloaf and potatoes.

I think I may have a nooner with it this week, actually, I hope to take the remainder of sauce and pour it all over my lame, poor little Lean Cuisine. Sorry, Chef Keller. I know it wasn't your intention, but it sure as hell cannot suck.

Wanted to go buy a new excercise bike this weekend, and I did go look, but I found no options that I really liked. Then I decided an elliptical might be more what I am looking for in a piece of excercise equipment. Did some research and came to a decision. Then meausred to make sure I could fit the box into the truck.... I cannot. Would it have been easy for the hubby to call his dad right then, take ten minutes to pick up his Suburband and drive me to Dick's Sporting Goods to pick it up in a grand total of about 30 minutes of activity? Sure. Is that what happened? No. Hubby spent yesterday afternoon, last night, and this morning and afternoon dealing with a rather nasty trojan on his PC. He seemed to think running his anti-virus software for, oh, the SIXTH time would really do the trick. Heck, we could have gotten my flippin' elliptical WHILE any of of the zillion things he tried was chugging away. (Yeah. I'm slightly peeved. Thanks for doing something for ME, hubby. Grumble).

Hubby continued to work on his PC, then went to his folks house to wash his car, then came home, then finally let ME do some stuff to his PC and the problem was fixed in about a half hour.

Don't know when we're getting the elliptical. I would hope this week, but I suspect the hubby will continue his streak of working late, and I suspect even more that if he doesn't he'll make up some cranky excuse to not have to do it. What-ev-ah. If I don't have it by Saturday, we're going for it on Saturday. And if it no longer on the crazy super-sale they're having (they had no date posted for when the sale ended) he's going to suck it up and pay the damned difference.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dinner: Impossible

I love Michael Symon.

But man... watching tonight's episode of Dinner: Impossible (much like watching the "block party" episode of Top Chef last season) I was getting distracted by the whole "invade the neighborhood kitchens" thing.

Please, hold one for my block!!

You want shrimp? I got shrimp. I know enough not to let you take my nasty frozen scallops. got crawfish. I have fresh lemons, leeks, mushrooms (2 kinds) asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes (I did stop at the Farmer's market), prosciutto.

Pantry basics? How about some tomato confit and homemade veal, chicken and shrimp stock. I also have a bag of frozen lobster shells I need to deal with.

Dry pantry? About as many types of pasta as you can imagine, extra bottles of olive oil, extra bottles of balsamic vinegar. I also have just about every type of vinegar you can imagine. Don't get me started on counting all the various mustards I have.

It'd be a dream for me to have someone else come in and take all this stuff and make something beautiful and fantastic for a crowd with it, without me having to do it (or clean things up, as I am particularly cursed today and dropped an egg on my kitchen rug and then broke one of our old Vegas shotglasses).


Stoopid TV.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random thoughts....

Yesterday and today, I went out and picked NO tomatoes out of the garden. Not even cherry tomatoes. I don't know if my plants just objected to the trip to Vegas (when we got back it right about when they went in the crapper) since I have some new tomatoes upon closer inspection, but sadly, I think my season is coming to an end. I hate that.

At least there is the farmstand on the way home from work. May have to stop tomorrow.

WAY too much good new TV on right now. Mad Men, Feasting on Waves, Eureka, The Shield, House, new Kitchen Nightmares... out Tivo is soon going to be overloaded.

Floods suck.

That picture right there is THE best hot dog stand in the Chicago area, as far as I am concerned. Gene & Judes. In my family, it was the only hotdog, and it was understood that a trip there could take up to 45 minutes (even though only about 3 miles away) since you had to cross two sets of train tracks - right by train yards so trains were often slow, stopped, or backing up, or all three - on one or both tracks in each direction.

But 'twas always worth it. Basic Chicago stand dog... relish, mustard, onion - and not a drop of ketchup in the place (which is why it also happens to be the hubby's least favorite hot dog stand). Hand cut fries. Open late. In fact, where that gas station is behind it.... used to be "my club".... the Thirsty Whale. Where they didn't really pay attention to your ID as long as you were a good kid (and, well, a girl. Chicks bring in the male customers). The many Marks (there were two bartenders and various staff all named Mark). There are times I miss that place (more than just because I used to get ALL my drinks free). I was sad, when the owner sold it. I understood... it was (and still is) a prime piece of real estate (when not flooded) and that the staff was getting older, moving on, and they just couldn't find new guys who ran the place the same.... but seeing that picture... I'm glad they sold it. The last time the area flooded that badly was '86 or '87, back when I wasa living around there, and man, did it suck. And they got pretty much the same flooding this time around... all the same areas, all the same streets.... and I remember that the Whale close for several weeks while they had to do what we also had to do at our ranch house several miles away.... rip out all the carpets, scrub scrub scrub down the walls up to the water marks with Lysol, replace sheetrock that was moldy, and then fix it all.... it sucked. I think it was the '87 flood because it was still summer, and my parents saw fit to let my brother stay with my visiting cousin and his dad a few miles away while I helped with the work.

Thankfully, I do know that Gene & Judes (which was also closed for several weeks back then) re-built at that time to be somewhat flood-proof... they are right next to a small river that floods a lot. Hopefully all they'll need is a good scrubbing to be back in business. And I may have to make a road trip to have a hot dog.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend at Casa de Hausfrau

Happy stove!!

That is chili in the crockpot, and veal stock reducing in my other pan. Yay!

The chili was for dinner tonight. Hey, it's football season! Gotta have chili!!! The veal stock is the correctly executed brown veal stock from the French Laundry cookbook. I remembered the tomato paste this time... and boy was this a different animal. Much more complex. The other one I made seemed more like a really good chicken broth (which is kinda how hubby described it). This one has a bit more body and I can really see doing some nice pan sauce for beef with this one in the near future.

It was a Sunday for staying in... rainy and many flooded out streets around here. The Chicago area actually got more rain on Saturday than any other one day total. I know those down in the gulf coast are dealing with an entirely different thing, but this meant some headaches to us.

We got off pretty easy. A little leaking in the basement, no more than usual and not as bad as we have had to deal with at other times in the past. Some others we know... not so lucky.

My cousin (who is married to the hubby's ex-college roommate - it's a long story about how their hookup happened, but we had no involvement in setting them up, but they are great together) lives right next to a creek, and their basement was getting water. Looked like it was going to threaten her hubby's comic book collection, but he managed to get everything up higher just before more water came in. My brother in law and sister in law didn't get anything in their basement, but my sis in law went to check on her parent's house (they were out of town) and they got some water in their basement due to a water-filled window well. The hubby's aunt got some water in her basement, also due to a water-filled window well. When we ventured out yesterday, we turned in to a parking-lot-turned-lake and I was thankful we were in the truck and NOT either the Cougar or Camero or we'd have gotten water in the car.

The other big thing happening 'round these parts is some house desconstruction. Yes, we are FINALLY getting to the upstairs bathroom. It seriously needs a non-hidiously colored coat of paint, and we wanted to put in an new vanity (other one is all covered with paint from previous owner's attempts to paint..... I don't think they knew what painters tape was even though the dude worked for a house builder), and some new fixtures. Now, if I have a fixer upper task I like to approach it kinda like meal planning for the week... figure out a menu/what needs to be done, make a shopping list, do the shopping, then start when you think you have everything. The hubby? Nope. Jump in and start the deconstruction and..... oh. Uh-oh.

The uh-oh right now is that we have a 36 inch vanity crammed into the space for the sink/vanity. And the sink top is also 36 inches. They don't make off-the-shelf vanity tops that are 36 inches, they're all designed to have some overhang. No biggie... we came from Vegas with money, were all ready to go about just getting some countertop granite put there... then looked under the sink. From what I can guess, the upstairs bath was designed to offere the upgrade option of his & hers sinks (removing the stupid ass linen closet) that the original owner did not go for. The connections to the water line don't come from the back wall, they come outta the right wall. PROBLEM. You basically have to cut out a section of vanity and slide it in so you can connect to the water lines. And, well, biggest problem is that all the off-the-shelf vanities have drawers on that side. No 36 inch vanities that are just doors or whatever.

So, even though I was all happy that the hubby said "do what you want!" with the bathroom, it is not going to be that. We suspect they tiled around the vanity but there is some extra tile in the basement (or, seriously, we could just go Menards and say "point us to the cheapest 12 inch tile, and it would be this stuff) so we may just pull out the vanity, lay down a little more tile, and put in a 30 inch vanity. Yeah, there will be a gap and some exposed pipe... but we don't have many options right now. :( Stupid builders. Stupid first owner, for not going for the his & hers sinks! I'd frigging love that, but that is a task beyond what we're willing to do on our own. I understand the hubby's point.... it's not like we're going to be here forever, we're just trying to fix this place up a bit. Seriously... when we moved here... if they'd have done something as simple as painting the living/dining area white (rather than the ugly blue-grey that it was) we'd have thought this place was outta our price range. It was UGLY before we threw up some paint, and I never saw paint make such a difference.

So, no dream bathroom in my future. But as long as the horrid blue is gone, I'll be happier.

And, we've had a fly in the house pretty much since we got back from Vegas. And I FINALLY just killed it. I am Queen of the World right now.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Vegas Report

The Vegas report. Yeah, sorry, it's long... I'm too lazy to break it up right now.

Thursday, Sept. 4th – We’re Low High Rollers (or is it High Low Rollers?)!!!!!

Uneventful flight. Was unhappy since I thought upgrades to Economy Plus (on United) got the bag fee waved, but either I misread at the time or they changed that. Why don't you just raise the darned ticket fee by $15? Everyone was checking bags anyway, and I have to imagine the extra fees to process all the credit transactions makes some kind of dent. $20 tip at check in (it's all over the 'net, it's no longer a trick, people) and some friendly conversation with the check in clerk at the Flamingo was a huge success - 27th floor, near the elevators. Strip view, looking right at Caesars. And because of the 27th floor, no damned advertisement covering the window. AND a fridge and coffee maker? We're high rollers?!?!

Headed out for some lunch…. Looked at Paris to see if there was anything that sounded good, but we ended up back at the Flamingo at the coffee shop. I had a chicken wrap and the hubby had a Reuben. Both good, but not cheap. In fact, looking at the room service menu later, it was all stuff off the room service menu for the discount of exactly one penny. Next time, I might just do the room service, just to avoid the very bored looking and sounding Keno girl walking around trying to get people to play.

Went back to the room. On the way, spotted a dude on a bike delivering new cards to the porn slappers, and wondered if that was the “promotion” up from being a regular, street, porn slapper. In the room. spent some time Watching clouds. One cloud, turned into two clouds. Turned back to one cloud, then back to two clouds. A nice vacation activity.

For the afternoon gambling I was running close to even, hubby went to the 3-card table and was looking for me about 20 minutes later. Not good. Dinner at Trader Vics - mai tais, two orders of duck tacos (one for each of us), calamari (not as good as the last time, about 30 seconds overcooked) and crab rangoon that have ruined me for life, I don't think I can go back to the regular take-out ones after those. Blue crab, creamed cheese and it seemed like a touch of siracha chile sauce. Then got a fee mai tai when the bartender mixed the wrong drink for a table (hey… those things are ten bucks a pop! Major score!).

Back to the casino to dump in some more money. Then, I actually got a 4-OAK (that’s Four Of A Kind to you non-Vegas lingo peeps) draw on a 50 play double bonus machine... never pressed four buttons and "draw" so carefully in my life, or "cash out" so quickly. Score!!! I actually WON at the Flamingo! That never happens! Evening gambling was slightly profitable for the hubby. He actually had a $500 chip mixed among the other chips when he walked away from the table. Headed out for a couple of drinks at the outside "Miller Chill" bar. Marveled at the new aluminum bottles and had a round of "Why didn't I think of that?" which also included the new light-up backboards for the porn slappers. Started a community game of "spot the hooker" with some younger dudes out there. I went to the ladies and returned to see hubby talking to a very attractive brunette. Turns out, it was her 21st birthday and hubby was buying her and her boyfriend a shot. Her boyfriend looked like he'd about had it with 30-something dudes buying his girlfriend drinks (then tell her not to announce she's just turned 21 at every bar she walks up to??) Hubby buying drinks for a 21 year old and her boyfriend. Headed back to the room after that.

Friday, Sept. 5th – Can Anyone get our order right?

Woke up at 7am (what's the deal with all the helicopters? Oh, a stabbing at Bally's. Loverly.) and decided to break in the new Chucks (not a good idea) by heading to Venetian to the Bouchon Bakery for pastries. Other than the usual sights of crews working cleanup on every part of the strip and your early riser exercise nuts and degenerate all-night gamblers, highlights of the walk included seeing all the Meeting of homeless guys (seriously… Vegas has the cleanest, most un-crazy homeless people I’d ever seen in my life) and a pimp & ho argument outside Harrahs.

At the Bouchon Bakery, picked up 4 pastries and a large coffee for $20. No more expensive than the Java Coast stuff, and a zillion times better. Hey Keller - can't ya market this one to every casino on the strip? Please??? Wonderful danish (same as served at Bouchon) – it’s almost like a little cheesecake that they bake in puff pastry and then top with a cream cheese pastry cream, and the flakiest damned croissant ever. I tried to get a picture of the carnage from when I was done with it, but my camera went wonky this entire weekend and I don’t know if it’s even on there, or if my data cable is just messed up. But in any case – damned good. It was one of those croissants that when you just pick it up, the delicate pastry starts to shard and fly everywhere and it’s an outright mess when you take a bite, but it would be worth it even if I had to vacuum the floor. Seriously… if you’re ever in Vegas, wander into the Venetian, follow the signs to the Blue Man Theater and get some pastries. Even if you never eat at the French Laundry or Bouchon or Per Se or buy any of Thomas Keller’s cookbooks and attempt your own versions…. A visit the to bakery gives you an idea of what a culinary genius that Thomas Keller is. A simple cheese Danish as an outright culinary experience.

Lolligagged in the room for a bit, and discovered we had no shaving cream, so we went off to Walgreens and Fatburger (even though the shaving cream in the hotel gift shop is probably about the same price as at Walgreens, but we’ll take any excuse to be by Fatburger). "Meh" for Fatburger this time around... orders were entered right but apparently the grill people decided hubby really DID want cheese on his burger, and I wanted raw and not the grilled onions I asked for. Hot weather, but enough strolls thru casinos to keep from overheating. Another "meh" on the Bellagio conservatory. The town... seemed a little empty. Much more like Thursday crowds than Friday. Strolled thru Mag mile shops. Where'd the ornament store go? If it's still there, I missed it!

We’d left $10 and a note for the maid for more towels and pillows. Came back to a zillion pillows, a zillion towels, and some of our toiletries artfully arranged along with.... mouthwash. Mouthwash, people! We're running with the high rollers now! Spent some time in the room, watching the moutains. Moutains don’t move like clouds, but they’re still fun to watch. Reading for the trip for both of us was Bourdain – Bobby Gold Stories and Gone Bamboo (we switched books when we were done). Both good “vacation” reads in my humble opinion. Short chapters, just trashy enough to be a page turner, and I love crime & mob stuff. For dinner we had a hotdog craving so we headed over to the Fashion Show mall to hit the Nathans. Spotted some attractive ladies outside the new Palazzo sports book (need to find a new word for empty to describe how empty that place was). At Nathan’s ordered two sodas, two dogs with grilled onions and bacon cheese fries to split. We're served two dogs with raw onions. We mention it, gal behind the counter first says "oh, we don't have grilled onions" and when I say I just would have like to have been told that upfront, she then starts to say "well, if you want to wait I can grill some up". Confusing. Eat our hotdogs (after I picked all the onions off mine) then walked the mall a little but they didn’t have the book or the Vans that the hubby was looking for. Headed back to the casino. Hubby was doing very well at his three card table when I checked on him, but gave most of it back, I was doing so-so at video poker but at least having fun. Good cocktail service since the Strip was DEAD. Seriously, never seen it so empty on a Friday night.

Saturday , Sept. 6th – Sunburn and $25 Burgers

Woke up, putzed around a bit. Ate the leftover day-old blueberry muffin from the previous day’s trip to the Bouchon Bakery. It was still the best damned muffin I ever ate, even in it’s day-old state. Eventually hit the pool. It may have been empty in the casino but I think everyone in the hotel was at the pool. Got some sun (burn, actually, but it’s already fading), floated around a bit, then headed back to the room to clean up and lolligag some more. I did head down to the casino shop to pick up a pair of sandals I’ve had my eye on for about a year. My love affair with Onex shoes started in Vegas…. When the hubsy and I decided to get hitched, I did have an “emergency” white dress packed. But I didn’t have white shoes to go with it. I don’t think I owned a pair of white dress shoes. I headed to one of the shops at Mandalay and found a pair of white Onex sandals, and when I put them on, I swear I could have run to Treasure Island and back, even after days of Vegas walking. My feet were so happy. I’ve since invested in some black dress sandals, but there was still a leopard print pair calling my name. I needed to own them. I went down and bought them. And even though my feet were hurtin’ by this point in time…. I could have run all the way to Sahara in those sandals. Worth every penny. Other women can take their $500 Minolos that hurt their feet, I’ll happily live with my comfy yet cute $100 Onex shoes. Eventually, we headed over to Ballys/Paris and the burger joint.

We each ended up building $25 burgers - beef, caramelized onions and foie gras for us both (and I also tacked on brie). Very good. Not a huge slice of foie, but just enough to add some melty fatty foie goodness to the burger with the bonus being bites of foie. If you’ve never had foie… it is liver, so it’s mildly liver-sausage-ish, but it’s much more subtle than your standard liver sausage. Yum. Burgers were so good, in fact, that the hubby, Mr. I Put Ketchup On My Ketchup, did not put ketchup on it. Had a coupon for a free desert from when we checked in, so we split the beneigts. Meh. On the way back, saw actual real live Vegas CSI people outside Ballys (even though they already caught the suspect in the stabbing by then). Rested in the room, not really hungry for dinner, but hungry for gambling! Not as lucky for either of us to start off, but cocktail service was good since the casino was oddly empty. Slightly buzzed, we decide we should eat something.... back to Trader Vics for some yummy fried goodness! Each got out own crab rangoon, split duck tacos and calamari (way better, not overcooked this time).

Back to the room, grabbed some more cash and hubby took me down to an actual, real, live blackjack table. I know the rules, just never done a table before. Didn't start out well, had a couple of up spurts, but played it all away and had a good time. Sat with some lovely ladies from New Orleans who mentioned they got here right after Gustav, and were headed back on Monday just in time to deal with Ike. But they were happy and good natured and a lot of fun to play with. I actually wasn’t doing too badly and we had a really good, fun, dealer when a dealer switch came…. I don’t subscribe to my husband’s belief in “coolers” – dealers who always manage to totally bust a table – but this chick cleaned everyone out pretty quickly. Five dealer blackjacks in a row. Cleaned me out and made a dent to everyone else. But it was a fun table… had some California guys at the table for awhile, first an LA guy who was a smoker (my response of “Hey, you’re from LA, you’re not allowed to smoke!” started a somewhat animated but all in agreement conversation including some former smokers on the right to let people just do it or let owners of places decide) and some Northern Cali boys, one with loooong dreads who was so nice that even after he stepped off the table, he hung around to joke around with us (and actually went to hunt down the cocktail waitress that abandoned the table). While I was still at the blackjack table the hubby decided to hit the three card table, so I told him I'd be at the bar which was, very oddly, VERY empty. Usually you’d need to beat people off with a stick to get a seat at a poker machine at midnight on a Saturday. Even the bartended said it was odd to not have people standing three deep at midnight on a Saturday. Played, drank a couple Blue Moons, then headed out to the outside bar for a couple beers and a photo op of the hubby with some parked cop cars.

Sunday, Sept. 7th – Are you ready for some football?

Duh duh duh duh duh duuuuuh... football time! Up early, got some room service and putzed around the room for the first round of games as the hubby kept checking his fantasy stats. We finally cleaned up and headed down to the casino. The hubby started out in Bugsy's Caberet where they had a bunch of TVs with different game feeds going. Oddly, there was a "no outside food or drink" rule even though there was no food being served, and only one cocktail waitress that seemed to be coming once in a blue moon. I stayed for a few minutes before the drunken frat boys were totally getting on my nerves, then left the hubby with the already drunken frat boys and went to find the poker machine with my name on it and get a bloody mary.

Sat down, plunked in $20 and waited for the cocktail waitress to come around taking orders. While delivering drinks she asked me - twice - if I'd ordered some girly drink that she had. I said no, but to come by when she was taking orders. Another $40 later I was still bloody mary-less and cranky. The hubby came by, said there was no smoking in the caberet, so we both headed off to find open seats at the Garden Bar. I got my bloody mary, the hubby just sat, and we watched the second round of games from there. Did take a trip to the casino shop to get a totally awesome ornament of the Vegas sign. When I first spotted it, I thought it was $26 (and I do believe I was at least a smidge tipsy then)
. Picked it up… um… it’s $46. Bought it anyway, it’s awesome, and what the heck… it was a winning trip! After the Browns had lost, dashing the hubby's hopes of a big win off his bet on them, we headed off to find dinner. Hubby wanted to try the kobe burger at Le Burger. I got the "Le Mer" - salmon burger with a lemon aioli. Very tasty. Hubby was not impressed with the kobe burger, likely due to the couple of pieces of gristle in his burger. Service this time was also less than stellar, with both our orders of fries going missing. I think the lack of people just had everyone in one of those lulls - when you're not busy and your
brain is just not totally there.

After dinner it was back to the casino. Hubby found his three card table and I returned to the slow bleed, water torture-like activity that is JoB at the Flamingo. Wasn't doing too badly and cocktail service was spot on, at least. Hubby eventually came over, unable to take all the chips outta his pocket and proudly showed off the win from a $50 bet at the three card poker table where he finally got a royal flush. He was happy!

I cashed out, we had a couple of beers at the outside bar, and then it was back to the room to pack up as much as we could and enjoy the last night of the Vegas lights.

Monday, Sept. 8th – Home again, home again

I'd never seen the airport as dead as it was. WOW. We were through security in about ten minutes flat. Slightly bumpy (big storms in the Chicago area, the pilot warned us well ahead of time, and for a few tense moments we thought we might have to land in Rockford and refuel before heading to Chicago, but we were waved thru) but uneventful plane ride, and then the unwelcome whack when we walked outside and found it was like 60 degrees and raining. It was about 82 degrees when we left the hotel in the morning. Sigh. Got a cab, came home to my garden, which is looking pretty sad right now. I think we got rain while we were gone (more than we had to deal with on our arrival back home) so I don’t know if my mother in law actually came by to water/pick anything. About 50 split cherry tomatoes, my basil plant was outta control and needed some sever pinching off. I know my Wall-O-Waters gave us tomatoes early… but I think we may be nearing the end of the crop. Picked a couple off my patio plant, a red one off my beefsteak plant. Ordered a pizza for dinner – from a new place right around us. Sadly, we may be done with the place that was trying to take over our old pizza place, because this one was damned near spot on. Perfect crust. Well cooked toppings (the hubby likes a “garbage pizza” with green peppers, onions, mushrooms, sausage and pepperoni. I only like the pepperoni, green peppers and onions if they are well cooked and beyond the “crunch” – or in the case of pepperoni, greasy – stage).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pot Roast Night

Ya'll know how I love pot roast night, don't you?

And I love the slow cooker.

The biggest pain in the BLEEEEEP in Pot Roast Night is usually getting to the step of making a gravy out of the broth in the slow cooker. It means fishing out the meat and the veg and draining off the broth and blah blah blah blah blah work tons of dirty dishes. I don't like that part.

Tonight, used the concept of Beurre manie. It's a French thing for thickening sauces. Equal parts flour and softened butter. Not a cooked roux, it's butter and raw flour. Easy.

Got home around 5:30pm, it was about 6pm when I got into the kitchen. Mixed equal parts of flour and butter (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) into a paste, then poured some of the hot broth over that and mixed, continued with more broth until I had about a cup of that, and then poured it back into the crock pot and cranked it up to high. Let it go, uncovered, for an hour.

I'll be damned if it didn't thicken up the broth and cook out the flour taste by then. And I didn't have to dirty a strainer, two bowls and another pot in the process. Oh yeah, baby.

And don't be mad Rosie, but I found veal bones again at one of my local markets and I have some veal bones blanching right now....

A happy night in the kitchen. Gotta love those.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Home again....

Um, yeah, apparently I missed my kitchen.

Trip report to come soon... still working on it. I like to keep them detailed because I am such a dork I usually go back and read them.

Got home yesterday afternoon..... ended up ordering a pizza for dinner, from a place around here that we haven't tried yet. I was going to take a picture of it now that my phone is apparently somewhat working again (went wonky on me in Vegas) or at least the leftovers, but, um.... there were no leftovers. It was that good and we were hungry. And I'll justify it by saying it was loaded with veggies, which was a good day after 4 days of burgers and hardly a veggie in sight.

I had today off still.... so it was time to unpack the luggage, lull around a bit, and head to the store to pick up supplies for the week. The original plan for dinner tonight was just the ole standby beef stroganoff. But, while shopping, I was passing the seafood case and they had some lovely looking clams, so I figured I could still do the beef stroganoff for the hubby and do some clams in white sauce for me.

Figured I'd kinda follow the French Laundry recipe.... clams and wine and herbs, bring to a boil, remove clams when done, strain, reduce the liquid and add a lotta butter. It was actually kinda fun pulling out each clam as it popped open - like a kitchen version of whack-a-mole (Oh look, there is one! Snatch it up. Another! Snatch that one. And two more!). I totall broke the sauce when I was adding the butter (I only used half of the suggested amount) and I really wish I'd have used unsalted butter (I usually just use salted butter, I'm lame that way and I only remember to buy unsalted butter when I'm baking) but even unbroken and a little salty, it was still tasty. And very, very easy. The hubby actually even tried a bit and said it was way better than any other version he's ever had. Yay!

Still have to clean the mess of dishes and prep veggies for tomorrow's dinner.... pot roast. I know the hubby will likely be home late and that can stay heating for awhile.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

... and we're almost off....

Ugh. Hubsy didn't get off work until a quarter after 8 tonight, and got home a half hour later. Grumpy, surly and disgruntled don't come near describing his mood right now.

It was a calmer day at work... it seems like even when (and it might not be until 2009) the sale of our company goes thru, we can run around like dunk monkeys with poodles for hats and the head company won't care, as long as we continue to meet our goals. That makes me happy. I do hope we get a little more structure coming down from the moutaintop from them, it would be a good thing. But, there are still a lot of people who do not like change at all and will continue to be unhappy. Takes more work to be unhappy 8 hours a day than just deal with change, IMHO.

Might post while in Vegas... might not. Right now, just looking to be away from my & the hubby's work for awhile.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In 48 hours......

... I will be on vacation. In Vegas. Hopefully returning to the Flamingo after meeting some 'net friends for a drink.

I'd be slightly more relaxed about it all right now if I hadn't learned today that my current company is merging with a new one. On the surface - we do good on low end, cheap stuff and they do good on high-end, expensive stuff and I think we made a dent in their market share last quarter - it looks like it's on the up & up and will be a good thing. But I, and many I have worked with, have been through it too many times to be 100% comfortable with it all. And it is all just hitting way too close to home with finding out last year, two days before a Vegas trip, that I was downsized (although having to do an hour and a half worth of work for Old Company tonight, "downsized" has a slightly different meaning).

But who cares!! Vegas awaits. I don't think we'll have any gourmet meals this trip.... just not in the mood. Might hit the semi-upscale burger place at Paris... there are rumors of foie gras on a burger there... but even I'm not in to the foodie thing at this point (which is a shame... I've got Restaurant.com certificates for like 4 places that I suspect will go unused).

But who cares?? One more workday, then Vegas!!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Final Countdown.....

do do do doooo... do do do do do.... do do do dooooo.... do do do do doooooo.....

Are we in Vegas yet???

Uneventful Labor Day weekend around here. Cleaned on Saturday, ran errands yesterday and got to the last odds and ends of cleaning, and today was about relaxing. Also been working on a semi-pedicure for my feet for the past couple days... usually like to do one at a salon before we take a trip, but one of my heels cracked open and I'm not fond of nail chop-shops when I have open sores on my feet.

Yesterday I did some veal patties for dinner... Julia Child recipe, actually. Happened upon this post and it sounded good. The produce place usually carries ground veal for a good price. They turned out OK... the hubby enjoyed them, he ate two, I thought they were OK. I guess unless it's covered in tomato sauce and cheese, I'm not much of a veal person.

But, I did use some of my veal stock and I will say... good lordy... what a texture on that stuff. The most luxurious sauce that has ever come out of my kitchen.

Tonight was burgers. I'll get to that in a second.

Big swig of beer.

It's been a horrible year for Japanese Beetles around here. For that reason, I've been content to let the spiders around here go around living and unharmed and as undisturbed as possible. It's at least kept the mosquito down. When I caught some beetles munching on my basil plant last week I was more than happy to continue letting the spiders build their webs and hang around.

There has been one spider that has apparently been content to build a web across the ENTIRE deck. Like, I walk outside and I'm hit by parts of web. I have no idea how in the world it could go corner to corner of the deck. But it has.

Went outside today, and there was apparently a web kinda built on the sliding door attached to something else. Saw something fall, but it looked like a leaf at first. Um, no. It was a spider. A huge, ugly, huge, big, huge, stripey spider of some sort. I only found this out after I had picked some tomatoes, started the grill, threw burgers on and then started to water plants, and decided to use the water stream to get what I thought was the leaf off the deck. It somehow, very quickly, made its way up the door and right in to the door frame. GREAT.

I managed to get up the courage to get into the house, find the bug spray and head back out there and not get attacked by what in my mind was the Godzilla of spiders. I tried to attack it with bug spray..... just get out, scurry away and out of my sight.... but it was holding on. I then tried to use a broom stick to urge it to move on. It fell to the deck, I tried to attack it with the broomstick. Anyone who knows me in real life and knows my utter lack of coordination can imagine how comical a scene that was. I tried a couple more sprays with the bug spray, and it scurried between a space in the deck and was gone.

I ran back inside, but I was still spooked. I made the hubby go out to flip the burgers that were on the grill.

Oh yeah... the burgers!!

The mis....

Yes... I do more than just ground meat patties on a grill. I was not brought up in a wealthy or even middle-class household (although I think we reached middle class when I was a teenager) and burgers always had some filler. Sue me. I've always been told I make a tasty burger.

One of my keys is dried minced onion. Adds a wonderful flavor to the finished product, since they kinda rehydrate when they're cooking.

I also use the Kitchen Aid for mixing ground meat. It's not just for baking, people! I don't mind getting my hands into a pile of ground meat, but the KA just does a way better job than my hands.

And what is that in the bottom of the bowl??

Torn white bread mixed with milk. Although I think I went a bit overboard for my amount of meat, oh my WORD does it make a difference in the texture of the finished product. It's how you keep your burgers from becoming hockey pucks.

Add ingredients... that is the beef, the onions, some steak seasoning, onion powder, Lee & Perrin's and some steak sauce.

Mix away!! Whoot!!

The final mixture.

Um, yeah... the first formed patty and the egg you forgot to add.

The final product. Throw on the grill and cook away. Yum. Always a welcome meal around here.

As for the rest of the week.... only have to worry about tomorrow, and it'll be BLTs. I suspect the hubby will be home late, and I suspect I'll have to do some touch ups on the UV gel nails, and possibly get polish on them.

And oh yeah.... in the "whhhaaaa?" file... I already have a couple of 'net friends who are going to be visiting Vegas at a slightly overlapping time with our trip..... but apparently there will also be three cousins and an aunt in Vegas. Found out today that one cousin is going there with her mom (aunt) before a wedding in Arizona on Sunday. And the sons of the aunt/brother of the cousin will also be in town for some work conference. I just hope no one calls us for bail money.