Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Getting in the spirit

Since Halloween was on a workday, those of us with any sense of spirit dressed up at work today.
My costume is a flapper dress though it's hard to tell in the photo, but it's bedazzled with plenty of sequins and fringe. And I've got an awesome sequined headband that has a rhinestone clip with feathers, but it's on the left side of my head so you can't really see it.

It started raining pretty good around here at about 4:00 pm today so we don't expect quite the crowds we normally get though I did just get a large posse of Jokers (from Batman) who braved the rain sans umbrellas so I guess there's still some die hards out there. If not, we're going to be responsible for snacking our way through six bags of candy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Home projects

Chris has been spending his extra time at home doing much needed projects like deep cleaning the kitchen, building new shelves in my spice and dishes cupboards, and most needed of all - building shelves for my booze collection.
Now I won't have to get the step stool out to reach my beloved Malibu Rum or Grand Marnier - yay for me!

My house projects have been just important, though more of an edible nature. I've been finding new recipes to try that I can substitute my gluten free ingredients with. Last night I whipped up a magnificently aromatic loaf of Pumpkin Espresso Bread.

It doesn't have a glaze on it like my maple stout bread did, but it does have an addictive crumble topping of pecans (instead of hazelnuts), espresso powder, and brown sugar. There's also espresso powder in the bread itself which gives it a deeper, roasty flavor. I love, love, love it. There was only 1 1/2 cups of flour called for in the recipe so it was an easy swap out with my GF flour blend. Once you start substituting more than about 2 cups of flour you start noticing the difference in texture. GF flour is a little chewier and denser and doesn't create the soft, fluffiness of wheat flour. But with both this loaf, and my last one, you can't tell any difference. Except, of course, for the fact that it doesn't make me sick afterwards.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oh great, he's 38!

Somebody had a birthday today....and his name is not Susan. I gave him his birthday present of a private plane ride with a mutual friend of ours and he had a new compressor waiting for him from my mom plus his requested birthday dinner of Ginger's (Chinese) and a movie date to see Argo.
After dinner was a little pink bubbly moscato and some sour balls. Every grown man's dream.
Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet Canadian. Here's hoping 38 is full of some of the best, and most rewarding, surprises yet!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Home again, home again

After two and a half days of sin and debauchery, we flew back home yesterday afternoon.
Look how close the airport is to the strip, you can see the Luxor pyramid on the south end. Thankfully we were smart enough to leave enough food in the house so that we didn't have to go out anywhere when we got home. Instead we could lounge on the couch and enjoy the incessant jack-hammering from the water company who had our whole front yard tore up (we have the water valves in our yard) while working on pipe leaks in both our road and the side road next to us. Good times!

While killing time at the airport I ran across a recipe for coconut macaroons on a food blog that I wanted to try when I got home. Well, today was as good of day as any so I whipped up a batch of gluten free Pumpkin Spice Coconut Macaroons.
I really liked them (though not as well as Face's macaroons), but the boy acted like I fed him poison. He made the WTF face, violently squirmed around and looked for the nearest thing to spit it out on to. Granted, I fed him a bite of the uncooked dough (there's no eggs in it), but I thought it was actually tastier than the final, cooked product. I blame it on his busted up taste buds since he brought home a cold from Vegas. On the bright side, he said there's no worries that he's going to eat all my cookies!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Momma Mia!

After our ABBA spectacular tonight we popped back in at the Irish Pub which was conveniently located next to the theater and had a slice of toffee cheesecake and a spicy Irish coffee which was coffee with Jameson Irish Whiskey, Goldschlager cinnamon schnapps, and Bailey's Irish Cream and then the whole thing is topped with whipped cream.
I loved it, but the Canadian was frightened of it's strong alcohol taste. That just leaves more for me, baby!

Last full day in Vegas

Since we fly home tomorrow morning we spent today hitting the last few casinos that were on our must-see list like Paris and The Venetian. Both were north of our casino so after our oatmeal breakfast we crossed Las Vegas Blvd and started trekking north. We wandered through a couple of other casinos we passed on the way, but nothing noteworthy. We hit Paris first which offered a cute promenade of shops and cafes.
After Paris we continued to walk north until we got to The Venetian which is probably my favorite casino. It has such a wonderful Italian theme to it, plus oodles of shopping.
We didn't pay to ride on the gondolas, but we did enjoy watching other couples ride down the canal while the gondoliers sang. Plus there were performances going on in St. Mark's Square (across the canal from me in the photo) every hour which we enjoyed while sharing some gelato and coffee. Like some of the other casinos, The Venetian had been decorated in a fall theme;

After The Venetian we headed back to our hotel only stopping long enough to catch the water show in front of the Bellagio.
Instead of going out for our last dinner we stayed here and went to the Irish Pub again that we went to on our first night. Another salmon salad for me and fried sausages for the boy with some adult drinks to wash it all down.

Now we're just lying around with our full bellies waiting until our 8:00 pm show starts. This morning we bought tickets to Dancing Queen which is a musical tribute to ABBA. How could you not want to watch that? Then I think some toffee cheesecake and spicy Irish coffee is in store for us as a bedtime treat. We'll be getting up early tomorrow to be checked out and waiting for our airport shuttle at 9:30 am. Then it's back to reality where people aren't trying to shove nudie trading cards at us and there's not a roller coaster track right outside of our bedroom window with people screaming woo-hoo every 30 minutes as they whiz by.

Hiking The Strip

Yesterday we logged hours and hours of walking up and down the strip. We started off our morning with some quick oatmeal from Starbucks down in the "Staten Island" section of our hotel.
It's all decorated like a miniature New York neighborhood. Super cute. After breakfast we headed north on the strip, checking out the Bellagio;
and then Caesar's Palace;

And eventually over to the Wynn where we had their famous buffet for dinner.
The buffet was good, but not as good as our Irish pub dinner at our casino the first night. Oh well, they did have a good paella that I had seconds on. Since we'd both bought shoes at the mall we decided to walk back to our hotel and drop off our loot after dinner before heading to the Fremont Street Experience on the way northern end of the strip. While back at the hotel we figured out how the local transit system worked since it was way too far to walk and then headed across the street from our hotel to catch a north bound bus. 40 minutes later we were dumped off in the heart of Fremont Street to soak in all the old Vegas gaudiness.
All of Fremont Street is covered by some sort of overhead LED canopy that did awesome musical and light displays.
While there we tried to make ourselves blend in by partaking in some of the local offerings such as alcoholic slushies (mudslide for me and a blue lagoon for the boy) with deep fried Twinkies and chocolate covered frozen bananas.

The fried Twinkie was life changing. It could be the most decadent, white trash food we've ever eaten, though we were put to shame by the lady who bought both the fried Twinkie and fried Oreos. As per Vegas style we didn't even have thoughts about coming back to our hotel until 11:00 pm. Apparently sugar and booze will keep you fueled for hours. Who knew?!?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lost Wages, I mean Las Vegas

Today was the first day of our Vegas vacation! Took the 1:30 pm flight over from Sac and spent the afternoon and evening getting to know the south side of the strip. We're staying at New York, New York which by no means is fancy, but it's got a cute old New York them inside.

Just to the south of us is Excalibur and to the north is MGM Grand. By the time our free airport shuttle dropped us off and we got unpacked, it was already 4:30 pm so we immediately starting seeking out somewhere to eat. Luckily for us we'd already researched eateries online and new that there was an Irish Pub in our casino which we stopped at for dinner and it was phenomenal! The boy had bangers and mash and I had a salmon salad that was quite simply the best salad I've ever had. And the best part, besides the delicious booze, was that we had a $50 dining credit as part of our reservation package so dinner was practically free.
After dinner we headed south to Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay.
The worst part about casinos is that their interior signage sucks. They give you just enough directions to dump you onto the main casino floor and then you just end up wandering around aimlessly trying to escape their evil clutches. Excalibur and Luxor were pretty boring, but Mandalay Bay was really nice. If it wasn't so far south on the strip if would have been a great place to stay. We grabbed some drinks and listened to a live band doing cover songs and then caught the end of the Detroit/Yankees game while exploring the rest of the casino. Though we never shy away from a good walk, we did take advantage of the free tram that shuttles between the casinos on our way back to ours. Since it was still fairly early (8:00 pm) we decided to head north for awhile and see what struck our fancy. We passed the Monte Carlo, Aria (where they had ridiculously expensive shopping like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Dior), and then crossed Las Vegas Blvd to check out the Miracle Mile Mall at Planet Hollywood. I found an Ann Taylor Loft where I scored a black lace skirt and a dress, both on clearance, for less than $60 total. What was interesting is that when we first ventured out after dinner, around 6:00 pm, there was hardly anybody on the street. On our way back to our hotel at about 10:30 pm, it was crowded sea of humanity. Apparently everybody takes a late afternoon nap to gear up for their wild and crazy nightlife.We have to get to bed though because we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow including getting way up north to the old strip on Fremont Street. So many miles to walk, so little time.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Parade of lights

Since Wilson is home for the weekend I stole her tonight to accompany me to the downtown Parade of Lights. The shindig was set to start at 7:30 pm, but it was hell getting a parking spot. It felt like we spent more time trying to circle around the block than we did at the entire event. We found a good spot to stand on 3rd Street which was right at the beginning of the parade route. Then we settled in for an hour of brightly lit entertainment.
The local sorority houses all had floats with vacation themes like New Orleans, Times Square (above), and L.A. even though the theme of the parade was the "Chico Experience" so we're not quite sure of the connection.
There was a parade of bugs that were part of the Chico Volks Club.This one was decorated like the life flight helicopter from Enloe.
Then there was a wild posse of BMX riders taking to the streets; their bikes completely decked out with glow sticks. Overall it was pretty entertaining and maybe next year Wilson and the Canadian can march proudly with the Chico Cat Coalition, carrying their stuffed cats decorated with lights.

Birthday bash!

Wednesday was my 35th birthday extravaganza. I had a great birthday celebration at work as well as finally getting to open my mailed gifts from family that had been taunting me all week.

Wednesday night is also bible study night, which I still went to. I got the beautiful glass vase full of gladiolus from Kari that night. Chris and I decided to out for my birthday dinner on Thursday instead. I'd picked Leon Bistro, but upon arrival found out that it was closed for a private party that night so we just ended up going down the street to T-Bar instead. Many thanks for all the wonderful birthday condolences, I mean wishes, and the generous birthday gifts; I'm enjoying every second of them!

Good eats

After much anticipation, the new Japanese restaurant in P-town finally opened last week. Even better, three of my co-workers took me there for an early birthday lunch.

The owner of the restaurant was so happy to see me that she came over and gave me a hug. I had worked with her on many occasions to get her paperwork completed for her state food and liquor licensing. I was so excited to try all of the delicious things on the menu. We all settled on the lunch special which was two Japanese "tacos". They were slices of eggplant, dipped and fried in tempura, and stuffed with your choice of spicy tuna, crab mix, or avocado and tofu. I had the tuna and crab tacos. As a group, we also ordered some rolls a la carte to share. California rolls, seared tuna rolls, and a "jimmy" roll which was tempura dipped and fried and had cream cheese in the filling. It was all so ridiculously good. Against the protest of my full belly I agreed to some green tea ice cream dessert, but was then informed they were out so I declined any further offers. But the owner wouldn't hear of it and brought me out a scoop of vanilla birthday ice cream. I'm literally counting the minutes until I can go back again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dinner with friends

Tonight was our dinner party with all the couples from bible study. Lulu and Bill, who live down the street from us, hosted and provided the meat, the rest of us brought sides. I whipped up some delicious twice-baked potatoes with cheese and bacon.
Even though we were the closest, we were the last ones there because of my 2+ hour potato baking extravaganza. Everyone else was already snacking and drinking when we got there so I got my own glass of wine and headed out back to join the others.
We had a fabulous 3 hour dinner party full of good food and drinks. Chis brought some of our plum wine, lemon mead, and hard lemonade to share with the group. One of the couples there keep bees and are going to try to hook us up with some honey for a new batch of mead. Chris has been talking about this dinner idea for months so it was nice that all of our schedules finally lined up.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

SoCal Sister Sleepover - Day 3

Today was all about shopping, shopping, and more shopping in old town Pasadena. When Wilson visits home she brings me delicious vinegars and olive oils from a store in old town Pasadena. The bottles are refillable so I brought the empty bottles with me to take back to the store for refills. After sampling all of their wares I settled on the Raspberry Basil Vinegar, Champagne Mimosa Vinegar, Lemon Vanilla Vinegar, and Jalapeno Garlic olive oil (to die for).
I only brought the lemon vanilla vinegar home because it was a small 2 oz bottle, the others were all full size so I'm having Wilson bring them with her when she comes home next weekend because I would have been a very sad Susana if they'd broken in my luggage.

Wilson was a good sport as she followed me into store after store so I could try on the newest big city fashions.
Dear Banana Republic, why do you make such adorable coats when you know I need another coat like I need a hole in the head? Part of our shopping included a stop at Sephora where Wilson bought me some perfume and makeup for my birthday. She knows that old people need all the help they can get to smell and look good. We left downtown shortly after 3:00 pm to get me to the airport (Bob Hope Airport) by 4:00 pm for my 2-hr check-in. And even though I didn't do an early online check-in, I still got the group A, #16 boarding pass. Then I had two hours to kill, playing on my Nook, drinking bad coffee, and watching the incoming flights.
It's a crazy airport where you board and disembark outside on the tarmac. My boss, Craig, just thinks that's the coolest thing - totally old Hollywood style. I snub my nose at it, I want my enclosed gate tunnels. But I do have to say, it's the easiest place to get in and out of.

I got home right around 9:00 pm where I was greeted by my husband bearing birthday gift boxes from my family that had been delivered while I was gone. They're staring at me, taunting me, but I'm going to be strong and wait until Wednesday. Thanks to Wilson for a fabulous weekend of adventures and to her cat, Chubs, for making sure I never overslept by getting in my face and meowing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

SoCal Sister Sleepover - Day 2

Today was a very ambitious schedule. We had tickets to the Getty Villa at 11:00 am, lunch afterwards, and the Cleopatra exhibit at the California Science Center before 5:00 pm. Traffic was so light this morning that even though we left a little later than originally planned, we still had time to pull off the freeway to a Starbucks, next to the Fox premier theater, for a little morning coffee and baked delights.
The Getty Villa is in Pacific Palisades overlooking the Santa Monica bay and is a museum about Greek, Roman, and Etruscan artifacts. And in Roman style, the steep driveway up to the museum is done in cobblestones, which while lending to the theme of the museum, are not the least bit functional for a modern car. Then, once you park, you must ascend about 10 flights of zig-zagging stairs just to get to the docent counter to pick up a map and be told you have to go up, and then down, two more flights of steps to get to the actual entrance of the museum. It was like a horrible real life M.C. Escher painting.
We visited as much of the 1st floor in the first 30 minutes as we could, pushing the elderly and crippled to the  curb, so that we could catch one of the tours at 11:30. They were offering an architecture or garden tour. I chose the garden tour first thinking that if we were going to be outside we might as well do it first before it got any hotter. There were four gardens at the Getty that we were given a tour of, all of which the guide had elaborate stories for that I've long since forgotten. I guess you had to be there.

On the second story of the Getty Villa they had a special exhibit about Pompeii, but you couldn't take photos  so you'll just have to trust me that it was very interesting. I think we ended up leaving Getty around 2:00 pm and headed back into Westwood for lunch at Noodle World which really did turn out to be everything Wilson promised and more.
I had chicken curry with rice and it was deeeelicious. After lunch we went over to Wilson's work where she brilliantly, I mean accidentally, left the Cleopatra vouchers. I got to meet her co-workers and check out the corner of the dungeon she works in.
Then it was a mad dash to Cleopatra since it was coming up on 4:00 pm and we didn't know when the last reserved time they issued was since they close at 5:00 pm. We got to the ticket counter at 4:10 pm where they tried to tell us the last ticket reservation they have for that exhibit was at 3:30 pm because they suggest at least an hour and a half to get through it all, but Wilson wasn't having it. She explained that she'd already been through it before (which she had) and I said I was an out of towner so we couldn't reschedule like they were trying to suggest to us. Finally, if we promised to be done by 5:00 pm they would still let us in. So off we raced to the third floor to get through the exhibit as quickly as possible.
These were all artifacts that had recently been excavated out of the water where the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria used to be. These two statues were enormous. I don't even think I came up to their knees. There were lots of coins, jewelry, and figurines, but the most impressive piece was a portion of a scroll that was declaring that a friend of Marc Antony's was exempt from paying taxes and it was actually signed by Cleopatra. I had to take a photo of the screen next to the exhibit because the actual scroll was so dimly lit that it was hard to see and you couldn't use flash photography.
They were saying that there's no known images of Cleopatra (other than coins) to know what she actually looked like since after her defeat the Roman's destroyed all known images of her. So I guess we'll have to stick with Elizabeth Taylor in the meantime.

After Cleopatra we came home through super slow traffic that at least allowed for a nice nap for me. Then Wilson was kind enough to stop at a Whole Foods around the corner from her house so that I could peruse and drool over all the awesome stuff they have. I did find a gluten free meadow muffin to have with breakfast tomorrow and a gluten and dairy free coconut creme pie to split with Wilson later for dessert which is never going to come if I don't get off the computer and start making us some dinner!