French Martini & Cocktail Video (Inspired by Disney, Cruising, Las Vegas, California, Florida)

With the release of French Martini on Kindle, I was inspired to create a video looking back at our life through cocktails – lol! This was so much fun to put together (PS – a link to a recipe for a French Martini is in the video description). Enjoy! Also, please subscribe, like, and/or comment on the video. Thank you!

Great Christmas Light Fight TV Winner

When we saw the Henderson house on the “Great Christmas Light Fight” TV Show, well, we had to visit with it being so close to home. We were definitely cheering them on to win and they did – yay! It was really cool to see that pirate ship in person. The whole display was pretty awesome. Interesting how the property was much smaller than I’d thought while watching on TV.

I took a little video from my iPhone so it is what it is. And, yes, after trying out Vimeo, I decided YouTube is the better choice for the videos we want to upload. And then I switched back to Vimeo because while I enjoy being a YouTube user (upgraded package), I don’t enjoy being a YouTube creator..

Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas

We’re counting down to Rich’s birthday cruise to the Bahamas. After the month we’ve have, we really need to get away – we’re so glad we made the decision to book another cruise when we got back from my birthday trip to L.A./cruise to Ensenada.

I’m looking forward to my first Margarita and Rich can taste those Guy’s Burgers. Sipping, relaxing, noshing… ah, life at sea!

Shadow, Daisy, and I are up again during the night. I’m hoping they’ll keep quiet and let Rich sleep before getting up for work in a couple of hours. They’re now asleep at my feet as I write this. In this moment, we’re all okay so it’s hard to get up from the computer and go back to bed.

Shadow is getting better about howling his grief – I suppose we all are. It still takes Rich and I by surprise, though, like all the places we still see him or the little things we did with Skipper in mind and now we either don’t need to or don’t especially want to. His presence is all over this house – I suspect we built it for him. After all, he was king! đŸ™‚

Looking back at a few photos from the Vegas years, I’m posting a few of Skipper that especially stood out this morning. And as much as I was desperate to leave Las Vegas, I do miss it sometimes. Certainly, the memories. I definitely needed a break from it, though.

Late Sunday afternoon reminded me of how good we have it here. We just hopped in the car and drove to the beach and there I was dipping my feet in the water. Heaven! You can’t do that in the desert.

A friend and I were talking about meeting my father 16 years ago and how it was too short and I realized I knew Skipper longer than I knew my father.

That reminds me of a story about a woman I worked with in San Francisco when we were in ours 20s. Her dog died and then her father died and I said to another co-worker, “She seemed more upset about her dog dying than her father.” And Stefany said, “I suspect she got a lot more love from her dog than she ever did from her father.”

Anyway, here’s to Skipper. Look at those eyes – he would give me that look and he seemed so human. I will miss him forever! Love you, sweet boy!

 

In Case I Didn’t Get Enough Beef…

Our weekend turned out to be a bit of a mini-vacay or maybe it was our version of Mardi Gras before Lent begins today (Monday for the Eastern Church and Wednesday for the Western Church). We declared Sunday a holiday and hit the road looking for some fun and wound up back at Pahrump Winery for lunch at the Symphony Restaurant. We were last seen there about a month ago. In fact, our waitress asked if we’d been there before, because we looked familiar. I was wondering when they’d start recognizing us. đŸ™‚

After Saturday’s gourmet extravaganza, we were looking for something a little smaller so Rich had his favorite Onion Soup (although, this version came without the cheese and croutons) and Club Sandwich, and I had my usual Lobster Bisque and Sirloin French Dip. I do love my beef! We also each had a glass of our new favorite wine that we had last time – it’s a Red Blend called CZS for Cab, Zin, and Syrah. Yum!

We didn’t take pictures because we’d had these selections before, except for the dessert, which was amazing. I was going to pass on dessert, but Rich just happened to order my favorite thing. Then I was just going to have a bite, but I ended up splitting it with him 50/50 – I just couldn’t resist bananas, caramel, whipped cream, and ice cream – yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!

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Banana Caramel Xango

Now the problem with all of this weekend splurging is that it’s so hard to get back on track today. And to make things worse, I’m having a bit of post Tampa depression – we could have been on our way but we said no. Don’t know when the next opportunity will appear.

At least we have our Disneyland Food & Wine trip to look forward to. So maybe that’s it – when we booked our pet sitter for that trip today, we had to tell him about Lovey and he expressed his sympathies and that triggered another day of grief.

So maybe the right opportunity will come at a better time after we’ve gotten over the first surges of grief over our baby girl.

Best Burger I’ve Ever Had

On Friday, we told Tampa no. It wasn’t working for us, although we were a bit disappointed we’d let the bird in hand go free. At least, we were relieved of some stress.

Saturday morning, I was just joining Rich for coffee downstairs when he told me he’d had another bite in his email but this time in SoCal. We were deliriously happy, as we always are before we take a close look at what it all entails. We’ll see what happens next.

So energized by the possibilities, we decided to head over to the Forum Shops at Caesar’s. It’s our California connection, maybe because we’d discovered it, including lunch at Spago, on our first trip to Las Vegas together when we were living in the San Francisco Bay Area – a very memorable occasion. Besides, Rich had just gotten a raise and a nice bonus, and we needed to celebrate.

We took the back way down Dean Martin Drive to Frank Sinatra Drive – lol! It had been several years since we’d been there so we had to get our bearings. We were happy to see that Caesar’s isn’t charging for parking yet or at least not in that lot or who knows what the story is about parking. It’s a crazy new trend here the locals are not happy about, and we’ve been avoiding Strip hotels for that reason. It’s the principle of the thing or maybe we’ve had our fill of Strip hotel properties.

We stepped into Caesar’s and were tempted to nose around a bit, but then we found the Forum Shops entrance, and took a nice long stroll down memory lane, and even stopped to watch the Atlantis Show (so Disney) we were surprised to see was still there. When we started to get hungry, we thought about Border Grill, although we prefer the one at Mandalay Bay overlooking the pools – it reminds us of Disney World.

We thought about Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill that we’d spied just inside Caesar’s but we were drawn to Spago in the Forum Shops, reminding us of that special time over 20 years ago. We were seated “outside,” the service was just as spectacular as we’d remembered it, and while the menu had changed during that time, the food was just as James Beard worthy.

We shared:

Moonstone Oysters on the Half Shell*

Cocktail Sauce, Red Wine Mignonette

Rich’s entree:

House-Made Rigatoni Pasta

Fennel Sausage Bolognese Sauce, Herbed Ricotta

Kathy’s entree:

Grilled Prime Beef Burger*

Red Onion Marmalade, Aged White Cheddar, Bacon Aioli

The wine:

Sangiovese Rodano, Chianti Classico, Italy ’11

The oysters were the very best ever – amazing – it was a whole experience. The bread service was awesome – what can I say? Those breadsticks were mouth watering with out of this world seasoning.

With Lent approaching, I was craving beef. I thought about the Flat Iron Steak, but I’ve always wondered about those $18 burgers I’d heard about. It turned out to be a good choice. At $19, each bite was so tantalizing, that it was no longer a burger. Maybe it was the extra dollar. I could only eat half, but Rich did justice to the other half so nothing was wasted. His pasta was just as enjoyable as the burger.

We were too full for dessert, so we sat a bit and sipped on our wine. Then we took an after lunch stroll in Caesar’s and stopped in at the Payard Patisserie & Bistro and picked up a small box of chocolates for dessert at home. Scrumptious! Francois Payard was our chef at one of the “Sweet Sundays” at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival several years ago.

What we loved about Caesar’s is that as so many Strip hotels have gone young and contemporary, Caesar’s has some of that but it’s retained that classic Vegas feel and attracts people of all ages. We didn’t feel too old at all. We’re talking about staying over some weekend to explore further.

Speaking of a classic, I was happy to see that Cleopatra’s Barge was still there – I remember drinks and dancing there when I was still in my 20s.

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In front of Cleopatra’s Barge so many years later:

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Lake Las Vegas on A Roulette Wheel of Wants

We’ve come up with about 5 variations of what we could or should do next. It’s like a roulette wheel of wants – it spins around and lands on different desires.

Sunday we landed on Lake Las Vegas, one of our favorite places to get away, explore the village, pop into shops, stroll the Promenade alongside the water, picnic lunch on the grassy area, or eat a yummy lunch at our favorite – Sonrisa Grill.

We were seated by the window, and Rich ordered his signature drink – Mai Tai – and I ordered my signature drink – spicy Margarita. We snacked on a basket of colorful chips and fresh salsa, which was a step above most places.

Rich ordered the beef enchiladas and I ordered the beef tacos – both quite tasty and the closest we could get to SOL, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Newport Beach.

After a quite tasty lunch and drinks, we enjoyed our Sunday stroll, along with other people doing the same thing as couples and families. We even grabbed a pecan chocolate bite from the Rocky Mountain candy store for dessert.

It was really a lovely day, and a rare day in the Las Vegas area where you feel like you’re doing something normal. Here are a few snaps and a video:

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Thanksgiving in Margaritaville, Day 2, Part 2: Tampa

After touring our old neighborhood of Grand Oaks, we then drove back on 54 to 41 and up to Connerton. This was the newest community being built and we wanted to see a “New Jersey” plan Lennar was building up there. William Ryan Homes also had a Juno plan we were interested in. We feared this location would be way too far north and it was just as bad as we expected. It was a very nice community but located in the boonies. And the goofy salesman didn’t have a model of the plan we wanted and tried to sell us one we did not want.

Then we drove down 41 to Dale Mabry, right on Linebaugh to Westchase where we had lunch at Tijuana Flats, one of our favorite standbys in Central Florida. As soon as we walked in the door we heard “Viva Las Vegas” playing on the sound system. Isn’t that wild?

Kathy stopped in at the restroom and Rich ordered Dos Tacos, beef and bean, for Kathy and Carnitas Burrito for him. Coke and Diet Coke to drink. We sat outside and enjoyed the Tampa weather.

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After lunch, we headed back to our beach cottage via Tampa Road, pass our Palm Harbor apartment to get back to 19 and 60 to Clearwater Beach. It was so much fun visiting our previous homes – we’d so longed to see them again. But it did feel a bit like watching a movie – something from the past and not the present or future.

After a nap, we drove to the beach and watched the sunset. It was quite chilly so we had to bundle up but it was a beautiful evening.

Next we stopped at Walgreen’s for more snacks and supplies. Dinner was crab sushi with siracha for Kathy and a beef and cheese sandwich for Rich. We enjoyed sipping our Cupcake wine and talking deep into the night.

Rich’s Birthday Dinner at Pahrump Winery

We’ve been back from the cruise for almost a month now and almost recovered from our Pneumonia. Sorting through the GoPro photos/videos we took last month, I just realized I hadn’t posted Rich’s birthday dinner at the Symphony Restaurant at Pahrump Winery.

We’ve lived near a few wineries and they’re one of our favorite hangouts, so it’s really wonderful that we have a winery just about 50 minutes from our home in Las Vegas. And the restaurant is superb!

Here are a few pics from Rich’s birthday. Rich took a few from the GoPro and I took a few from my iPhone.

Rich started off with the Soup of the Day and went for the Ribeye with Mac n Cheese and  asparagus. I started off with my usual Lobster Bisque (yum!) and  I went for the Filet Mignon with baked potato and green beans. We also each had a glass of red wine (can’t remember what kind – waiting for Rich to get back to me.)

They brought us a complimentary creme brulee dessert for Rich’s birthday.

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Ricardo y Catalina at Hussong’s Cantina

Just back from a little cruise to Ensenada over Thanksgiving weekend, and we had a blast! We danced and sang on the ship, on the party bus, and at Hussong’s Cantina, which was our favorite stop on the tour.

The downside of a Thanksgiving cruise is it seems you play a little catch-up in getting ready for Christmas. So, we’ve been scrambling a bit, decorating our house, getting ready for Christmas, and planning next year’s trip to WDW. After Hussong’s, we’re thinking we’re gonna have to return to the tequila bar in San Angel in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot.

We usually buy a Disneyland calendar but this year we ordered a Disney World calendar instead. Wouldn’t you know it? They sent us a Disneyland calendar by mistake. Guess they thought if you live in Las Vegas, you want a Disneyland calendar. So Rich called them and they sent a WDW calendar, and now we have both. Works for me!

Speaking of work, work is always behind when you return from a trip, right? And, as a freelancer, it seems I’m the busiest around the holidays. But once I catch up, I’ll start our cruise report.

In the meantime, here’s a little peek into our fun at Hussong’s:

Summer of 2015: Birthdays, Beaches, and a Blast to the Past

beachkathyhatsmWe just returned from celebrating my birthday in SoCal, hanging out at the beach, Disneyland Resort, my old neighborhood, and catching up with family. We posted a few “live” pics, and we hope to start the trip report soon.

We had a blast, but it reminded me of how much I miss living near the beach. After splashing around in the water, I totally did not want to leave the beach and told Rich, “We have to move closer to the beach!”

Reading some older posts, I ran across this one and because Florida is always on our mind somewhere, I thought it would be fun to post an excerpt from that post and to think about what we wrote here almost 3 years ago right before we left Florida the second time around.

August, 2012

This morning was another one of those glorious Florida mornings and as I walked the neighborhood full of those Florida homes I love so much, I realized I may cry when the long hauler pulls up. The only other time I’ve done that was when we left Oregon in the first place. I was sitting out on our back deck when I saw the truck and I was surprised by the tears that flowed. I didn’t want to give up our first house where we’d started our new little kitty family. (Sad to return without the Budster!)

This time I have to give up Florida. And while it’s been difficult living here this time around, I do love it. As I strolled the neighborhood, I also realized that Florida represents my chance to relive my SoCal childhood as an adult. Disney, beaches, and affordable single-family, single-story homes with pools. That’s the way it was back in the ’60s when we lived in Orange County, California. Everybody I know who grew up there bemoans the fact that it’s no longer like that. And we all try to find our new SoCal. Florida was my new SoCal. Unfortunately, my childhood friends, schools, and family were missing from the Florida scene.

I will definitely miss opportunities to drop in on Disney, swim in the warm ocean, and meet up with new Disney friends when they’re in town. This was a brutal decision to make and many times, I didn’t think we’d make this choice. I thought maybe this time Florida would win.

Summer of 2015: Desert Mornings and Desert Nights

I don’t know which is better – relaxing out on a chaise in the morning or after soaking in the hot tub at night. The mornings are magical, but I swear, I could sleep out there all night long.

It all started as a kid, road trips through the southwest, stopping for the night in a motel, swimming in the pool – glorious at night.

HiltonPoolIn the ’80s when I started taking trips to Las Vegas as an adult, I often stayed at what was then known as the Las Vegas Hilton. We were often there for trade shows and I would relax out by the pool. I’d flip up my umbrella for a cocktail and pretend I was on a cruise ship. For lunch, I’d have a hamburger at the poolside grill, race up to my room to watch my soaps, and then back down for some tanning and relaxation out by the pool. This is the pool where they filmed Elvis and Me, which I was able to watch from my room.

In the ’80s, I also traveled to Reno and Tahoe from my condo in San Bruno. In fact, the ’80s were a great time to travel. Unlike some parts of the country, I was well-employed, had generous vacation, and travel prices were low. And the types of trips I took back then were mostly for adults. Cruises were not the family vacation they are now. I traveled when kids were in school and you rarely saw kids on a ship. Even Walt Disney World, during the school year, consisted mostly of retirees.

In fact, my whole adult life was very adult-oriented. Most of my friends in the Bay Area did not have kids. And life was so hectic for those who did, well, I just couldn’t imagine that for me. Places we traveled, ate, drank, did not have kids there. I remember this one couple at a Japanese restaurant in Reno saying, “This is why we don’t have kids – so we can do things like this.”

Now life is all about kids, kids, kids. I like kids just fine. Some I really adore – especially at Disney! Some I’d like to have for my own. I’ll be the first to stick up for kids. The problem for me is that there seems to be very few adult-only places anymore. There used to be a bigger separation. But it’s like there’s this new focus on having kids and life is all about kids as if we’re back in the ’50s and ’60s in a bad housewife reality show.

And for those without kids, well, it becomes rather tedious. Like reading the cruise boards and everybody’s talking about kid activities. Or women competitors on a cooking show playing up the mom role and talking about cooking for their kids. What happened to cooking for her husband or for her family? Why is it all about mom and kids? This is an example of something good and natural becoming unbalanced.

What’s nice about living in Las Vegas is that you can do so many things without kids. When we want to see kids, we go to Disney and like I said, I adore them there – I’m tempted to borrow one just for that – lol! I used to take my niece to Disney and that was a heck of a lot of fun. But it would be nice if the internet wasn’t so focused on kids and moms, kids and moms. I think it’s more about the internet than the reality of moms and kids. After all, my life is changed now and Rich and I are the proud parents of 3 furry kids.

But with the way the internet sometimes distorts reality, well, no wonder I sometimes want to disconnect and relax out by the “pool,” as if I’m somewhere in the ’80s and ’90s. My backyard oasis is calling me now…