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Tales and Tidbits from the Desert...

Updated: 2017-11-17T11:24:44.856-08:00


November Rain


The proceeds of my dad's condo were sent to me second day after closing. I was anxious to get the funds in the bank. I had received the EIN for the estate days before so I believed everything I needed to open his estate account was in order. I confirmed this with a phone call to my bank of choice and I was told to "come in", but when I showed up on a Saturday, I learned that the representatives that open estate accounts are only available Monday-Friday. It would've been nice if that was mentioned on the phone. Oh well. The agent set an appointment for the next Monday, and took copies of the documents to expedite the process. I arrived at my scheduled appointment and the rep sent off the documents to legal. This was after I received a call stating that I needed to bring in the originals because the copies would not suffice. Fortunately, I had them together already assuming that would be the case. All good - right?! Nope. The first snag was that one of the probate docs did not have a raised seal. Apparently, only a copy was issued by the courts. They were willing to waive it given the circumstances - court in another state and all, but then, they saw the other state was Illinois. This was a big problem. Illinois is one of the few, if not the only states, that require estate monies to remain in IL until probate has concluded. I was at a national bank with branches in Nevada, Illinois and in all likelihood the rest of the 48 states. But the appointment came to a screeching halt. The account would have to be opened in Illinois. Period.Um. Wow. I had numerous conversations with the probate attorney prior to this and she failed to mention this detail. Even when I asked multiple times that there was nothing that would require my presence in IL. Needless to say, I was frustrated. I've now made two trips to the bank that were a complete waste of my time. I've spent a great sum to date that cannot be reimbursed until the estate account is open and I'm able to draw from it. Worst of all, I was looking at the added expense of a trip to Chicago or attorney fees to find a work around.The universe took pity on me, I managed to find a flight to Chicago on Southwest the first week of November for $76 round trip. The fare was so inexpensive I easily had enough Rapid Rewards to cover it. Though, I was completely out of time off, my boss approved my two day absence given the circumstances. My only real expense was the rental car I picked up at Midway. This was considerably cheaper than the legal fees so the choice was easy, even if it meant - Chicago in November. Brrr. I faced a real chance of snow and blustery cold. There were frost warnings the week before my trip. I whined about it every chance I got, it was 80's in Vegas. I wanted no part of the cold. But it was there to greet me on arrival. It was an incredibly wet weekend too, but I was fortunate that the temps never dipped below freezing so I didn't encounter snow. Small victories. When I got into town I took the shuttle to the rental car facility. It was extremely busy for it being one o'clock in the morning. All sorts of high school kids and their families were in town for some sort of hockey tournament. You couldn't walk without tripping over a hockey stick. I happened to be (proudly) wearing my Vegas Golden Knights hoodie, but no one acknowledged it (boo). After sorting out the paperwork, I was given the choice of two vehicles in the lot. My first pick was a Mitsubishi which I quickly learned that it had bad brakes and a check engine light illuminated. So, that was a no go. The other vehicle was a Hyundai with a missing a back license plate. I was paranoid the whole trip that I was going to be pulled over. It was a relief when I returned the vehicle without incident. I know it was a busy weekend, but I really would expect better from Alamo. In fairness, I've only had good experiences in other cities.I had a bad case of butterflies prior to the appointment I had scheduled with the bank. I was nervous there'd be some sort of hiccup that would prevent me from opening the estate acco[...]

You know you're in Chicago when....



21 Days: List to Close


I left Chicago and returned home. It was only a day before we left for San Diego, but it was nice to have one night's rest in the comforts of my own bed. I had been away for 17 days, the longest ever from home and the most days I've missed from work. Two weeks had been the prior record when traveling to Italy and Ecuador. This Chicago trip was anything, but vacation. To say I slept very little while I was gone would be a major understatement. It's surprising I was able to function. I swear, I ran purely on adrenaline. Once I hit the ground running there was barely a break to take a breath. No joke.

"Winter is coming!" I was in real life, Game of Thrones. This condo had to sell before winter. I was concerned about the carrying costs, the risks of the unit being vacant, pipes freezing, the hot water heater leaking, the shower flooding and that just scratched the surface of my worries. After taking 10 days to flip my dad's condo, the listing agreement was executed on August 29. I wanted it on the market for Labor Day weekend, just in case eager buyers or looky-loos stayed home for the holiday. When it went live the next day, it was hard to sit back and wait. My home selling experiences have been far from the norm, and I have zero knowledge regarding IL real estate so I didn't know what to expect. It was completely out of my control, which made me anxious.

Fortunately, the first showing came the next day. When people started coming to see it, I was eager for feedback. Very few left comments, the biggest concerns were the hot water heater and the windows. We were offering a home warranty and the asking price reflected the need for window replacement and bathroom repairs. I was hopeful the right buyer would understand this. Eight days after list, I received a call from our agent; she had multiple offers. Two were serious, one would be financed and the other cash. The cash offer was enticing. It would allow a lower commission, sell as-is, and it'd be quick to close. After discussing with Mike and Amy, we countered, and I was hopeful the cash offer would go to contract. Per my lucky stars, it did the very next day. Closing was anticipated 10 days later. Wow. I was speechless.

Nothing is ever this easy. I just waited for the other shoe to drop, but no issues ever came. Illinois real estate transactions require attorneys; their coordination with the title company took longer than the suggested 10 days to close. I did everything in my power to make it happen timely, but it was scheduled for two days later. I signed power of attorney to the probate attorney's office so I didn't have to be present. That afternoon, I clung to my phone and email anticipating some sort of hiccup, but the transaction was flawless. The proceeds were overnighted the very next day.

35 days to pack, move, flip, list, sell and close. I could finally breathe.

Probate is a very public process so I've been fielding calls and mailers from all sorts of investors hungry to ease my burden. Some may be well intended; many are clearly not. I get it, it's business, but it feels so dirty to prey on the vulnerable. I take great pride when I inform them that the property has been listed and sold, the fizzle in their tone when I ask to remove me from their list thrills me. It's the little things...

Our Flip?!


Mike and Amy headed back to Vegas, I stayed in Chicago to get the ball rolling. I didn't know how long I'd stay, I only knew there was a lot to do. I first thought I'd stay long enough to collect my dad's cremains. I planned to begin cleaning and sorting through my dad's place to pass the time - I figured I'd have to wait for probate to sell the condo. My hope was to drive my dad's car while in town, but his brakes were barely functioning. I had a friend that is a mechanic give it a look, it definitely needed brakes and calipers. Plus, a whole lot more. More than the car is likely worth. I thought I had no choice, but to extend my rental. However, my aunt kindly offered to let me use her vehicle. I quickly accepted knowing I'd be amassing a great deal of debt handling my dad's affairs. No will, no beneficiaries, assets and real estate meant probate was unavoidable. It was new waters to navigate. I was fortunate to settle my mom's estate with small affidavits and avoid legal fees. I gained a great deal of knowledge in Nevada, but I'd learn little applies in Illinois.In short, Illinois is racket. Everything is more costly and has more red tape. The cost for direct cremation, for example, was nearly double in Illinois compared to Nevada. That was after a slew of phone calls, too. The first few quotes through funeral homes were four, yes 4! times as much as we paid La Paloma in Las Vegas. It was a pill I couldn't swallow, we persisted. By cutting out the middle man, we saved a bundle by going to Skyline Crematory. They were professional, timely, compassionate and I was very appreciative they weren't out to take advantage at such a vulnerable time. I began by finding a probate attorney on Avvo. It's like Yelp, but for lawyers. I weighed options, got Mike and Amy's input and ultimately decided to get started right away. I pulled as much paperwork as I could for the appointment, and only had to follow up with a few items. The consult was a whirlwind. Naturally, I was overwhelmed. I have already carried the costs of my mom's estate since she passed, and the burden of my dad's was far greater. Cook County has incredibly high taxes, even for a modest condo in the 'burbs. Fortunately, there was no mortgage. But once you combine the taxes with the monthly HOA, insurance and utilities; I was looking to carry at least a grand per month. At least, I did not have to wait for probate to list the condo. I only had to wait to petition the court before I could sign the sales contract as representative of the estate. Initially, it was a relief to learn this, but it solidified the fact that I had an insurmountable task ahead of me. Time was of the essence. Though, I was grief stricken I knew I had to be practical and sensible. The attorney recommended a real estate agent. I followed up with her to gauge how to proceed. She was helpful and informative. The market has grown stronger, but it's no where near the level we are experiencing in Vegas. I also realized I was heading into the second slowest season for real estate sales. School was just about begin, and winter was coming. My fear was confirmed, I was in race against time. However, she was encouraging and said that life happens, even in stale markets. You just never know. My dad lived in his condo for 20 years. He was a smoker, he rarely opened the windows and never used the A/C. The condo was nearly thirty years old, it had been in our family since '93. My great grandparents bought the place for my aunt to live. She passed, shortly before my parents divorced. My dad moved in, inherited her belongings and collected his own over the years. My brother and sister had both lived with my dad for periods of time. My brother's room was the master with attached half bath. My sister had the other bedroom. My dad had always preferred the couch to a bed, and that didn't change when he had the place to himself. The rooms have pretty much been frozen in time. The[...]

Golden Knights Fever



Practice Makes Perfect!




Then, There Were Three


Our family has weathered a number of storms. It's true, the past few have been the most difficult, but we've stuck together through it all. The bond the three of us share will carry us through the hardest times and propel us into the future of countless joys.In the days that followed our dad's passing, we were exhausted and stunned. There was only one place to dull the numb. Johnson's Beach was calling us home. It's where we spent a number of summer days. Nearby, West Beach was far more popular. I went a couple times with my aunt and cousins, but our parents were never ones to follow a crowd. They always opted for the path less traveled. I have no doubt it is where I acquired my sense of adventure. Growing up, my dad spent his summers at my grandparents home in Chesterton, IN. He spent many of days at the beaches that dot the shores of the Indiana Dunes State Park. He was most fond of Johnson's Beach and we too would develop a penchant for it.The dunes were unlike anything I had ever seen. Far bigger than any hills I had known. I'd struggle to run up as high as I could before my feet would tire beneath me, then, I'd fall to the ground and roll to the bottom while trying to tighten my smile to keep from eating a mouthful of sand. I brush myself off and try again. Rinse and repeat.I loved it most when storms were brewing up sizable waves. Big waves were my favorite. My best memory was in 1990, my brother and sister were small so they stayed behind with family. It was an incredibly humid day so we went to the beach. As the day went on the waves grew bigger and bigger. It was a struggle to swim to the sand bar like we would routinely do. The waves were so fierce in the afternoon we were easily turned into pretzels. It was positively fun. We splished and splashed having the best time. Mid afternoon the skies turned dark and electricity filled the air. Our wet hair stood on end. It remains one of the wildest sights I've seen to date. The ominous clouds signaled that it was time to go. We grabbed lunch at the Lure which was tradition. It was there were learned a tornado ripped through Plainfield, IL. It is the only F5 tornado that has struck the Chicagoland area. Watching the news coverage that night I recall feeling guilt that the storm delivered us the best of times, but the destruction was devastating for so many.Returning to Johnson's Beach proved to be more challenging that anticipated. It had been about 18 or 19 years since I had been back. I took Frank one summer just before the 4th of July. After buying fireworks at the nearby stand, we had a spontaneous day at the beach. Mike and Amy had been more recently, but it had still been a few years. Our memory isn't as vivid and the trees and brush have certainly grown over time. We eventually found our way. The dunes aren't as big as I remember them - the bias likely comes from being surrounded by mountains these days - it seems the beach has eroded too. Having less shore made it far more crowded than I can ever recall it being. The water was calm as could be, and painfully cold, to me. Though, others didn't seem to mind. That afternoon the three of us we sat in peace and reflected on the memories that were born here. Ones that will live on, and forever, be cherished.[...]

3-0 VGK!


The night began with a poignant ceremony that struck a balance of solace and celebration. As each player was introduced they honored first responders from our community with an escort to the ice. The lights dimmed for 58 seconds of silence to honor the victims of the Route 91 shooting. Their names appeared in a golden glow on the ice. I doubt there was a dry eye in the arena. It was moving and inspirational. I knew this night would be one for the history books, but I never could have imagined such a somber start for our Knights. However, having the team, fans and the community join together for this inaugural season home opener was just what the city needed to begin to heal.Once the puck hit the ice, it was game on! Two goals in the matter of minutes. It was nonstop action throughout the game. The energy in the arena was unparalleled. We'd go on to win 5-2 against the Coyotes, securing victory for our first three games. A first in NHL Expansion history. It was a night I knew I had to be part of, and it did not disappoint. frameborder="0" scrolling="no" width="640" height="360" src=""> frameborder="0" scrolling="no" width="640" height="360" src="">There you have it. Vegas Golden Knights hockey has begun. [...]

Two Months Ago


We were celebrating my sister's birthday a day early. She'd be working the actual day of, which she shares with my dad on August 9. I got the family together and we went to Shake Shack at the District for dinner. Afterwards, we headed back to my house to continue the celebration with cupcakes. Shortly, after we returned, my phone was buzzing. I had missed a call from my aunt that lives in Chicago. It was highly unusual for her to call, especially this late, as it was nearly 9PM PST. I immediately called back, my uncle answered - it is here, when my world begins to blur. Even, now, weeks later, it remains unclear.My dad was found on the floor of his condo unconscious by his youngest of three sisters. She had went over to tell him that the family would be celebrating his birthday the next day at Bartolini's. It's a favorite of my dad's, they have delicious calzones. My dad doesn't have a home phone (he stopped paying the bill years ago). Not a big surprise, he never did like the telephone. Amy gave him a cell a couple years back that he'll turn on for special occasions. The only sure way to get a hold of my dad was to go to his house. He'd appear after a few taps on the window. However, this night, he did not. Even though his car was home. My aunt knew something was wrong and had the neighbor let her in. An ambulance was called immediately. He has had no insurance since he was laid off from his job in 2016, where he worked for 40 years. Without insurance, there was no choice in hospitals. He was brought to the hospital Mike and Amy were both born in. The hospital has since been renamed and had a shift in management after bankruptcy a few years back. I actually thought it closed completely, but I digress. My aunt left my dad's condo, and met my aunt and uncle at the emergency room. After a CT scan and preliminary tests they determined my dad was in renal failure and severely dehydrated. He was too weak for further testing so they weren't able to determine more. They moved him to ICU, my aunts (and uncle) left when they had him situated in a room.After I hung up with my uncle. I had to explain the little I knew to my brother and sister. At least, we were all together. We immediately began searching for flights. Spirit had a red eye that left in two hours. We quickly decided to book Amy and I on that flight. Mike had just visited days earlier so he stayed behind to help with the kids. We quickly packed and made it to the airport with minimal time to spare. We opted for Starbucks at the gate rather than a beer, though, the latter was tempting. We were on edge. It wasn't that long ago we were left helpless traveling between hospitals in Pahrump and Las Vegas the day my mom died. And, when Frank's dad passed away, he died when I was mid-air. I was terrified my dad wouldn't make it through the night, and if he did, I was nervous about his condition. All I could do was replay the last time I saw him over and over again in my mind... It was three week prior, I reluctantly dropped him off at the airport. He didn't want to go, but he insisted he had bills to pay. But he'd tend to his responsibilities and then return to us (in Las Vegas) long term. He asked that I mail him driving directions from his house to mine. I had printed them out and mailed them the very next day. I hadn't talked to him since, but planned to on his birthday - since his phone would be on, special occasion and all.We didn't get a wink of sleep on the flight. We flew into O'Hare, I rented a car and then we drove to the south side. Thankfully, we were driving against the morning commuter traffic. Though, I was cursing the coin only tollbooth immediately outside the airport that forced me to activate the $15/day fee for the convenience of using the I-Pass. Such a racket! Anyhow, we arrived at the[...]



Still reeling from the death of my dad and the anniversary of my mom's passing, Sunday's attack has left me raw. I'm extremely fortunate that I don't personally know any victims. I cannot say the same for friends of friends or friends of coworkers. But having it occur miles from my home in the city I love, to have that monster in one of my favorite hotels, to have so many causalities on the grounds I've attended events... Needless to say, I'm shaken.

My brother is a huge fan of music and he attends concerts of all genres. He could have easily attended the show. If my mom was still alive there'd be a good chance they'd would've been in attendance. Just a week before the attack my brother and sister attended Life is Beautiful together. I immediately acknowledged how vulnerable they had been and then the Sheriff and MSM confirmed it. My heart sank.

The other night as I slept in my bed in the early morning hours with my windows open I awoke to gunfire. Frank was in the hot tub. I quickly texted him, "I heard gunshots!" He confirmed he heard it too. My heart raced. I paused for sirens. Meanwhile, Frank had already opened the police scanner app. Best we could tell it was a murder suicide. Though, it never made the news the next day.

I won't succumb to terror, but I admit being on edge. I was fearful of my own death since losing my parents. Not the actual event, but leaving those I love behind. Particularly, leaving my brother and sister without anyone to count on unconditionally. Nothing like becoming the matriarch to acknowledge your own mortality. I've since learned worse, yet, is being faced with the mortality of my loved ones. So many are facing just that. I ache for them.

I was eager to attend fan fest for the Golden Knights on Tuesday, but the event was understandably cancelled. This weekend marks the first public gatherings since the attack. Frank and I planned a quick getaway weeks ago. I needed an escape for my own well being. Now, I'm feeling a bit guilty I won't be in my city to show my support at First Friday or the unveiling of the Healing Garden or the number of other events planned for this weekend. I will, however, attend the home opener of the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. I shall rally, then.

Love What Matters



I've never been prouder of my city than I was on Monday. Everyone found a way to pitch in whether it be by a small or grand gesture. It was truly remarkable. Donations for blood, goods and services where not only met, but exceeded far beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Love was all around and kindness spread like wildfire. It warmed the (broken) hearts of our community.

Even when stuck in traffic during the morning commute due to I-15's Tropicana exit being closed in both directions, drivers were calm and allowed others to merge freely. As much as I love Las Vegas, I typically cannot praise our habits on valley roads. However, on Monday, kindness was also felt on our roadways.


Local efforts continued yesterday, though, it felt more "business as usual". Life does go on, so that return to normalcy is not only what many crave, but it's a natural continuum. I still felt a great deal of pride in regards to our community, but it was difficult not to be tainted by national media or social media. The sensationalism and circus made me sick. I understand that we all seek answers. They will come in time. Admittedly, I'm a huge skeptic. I question everything, probably to a fault. But. Goodness people! Have some decency and patience. There will be infinite amount of time to criticize, point fingers and push agenda. For now, Can't we just take a moment?!

I wish the media would focus on the beauty of humanity. Showcase the heroics that were displayed after this tragedy unfolded without being clouded by ugliness and judgment. I know, I know, I'm dreaming. But if you'd prefer to find the light in this dark time, turn to Love What Matters on Facebook. These are the real stories. The ones that need to be heard.

Vegas Strong


When the unthinkable happens it's hard to overcome the shock that comes from the situation. Last night was horrific as we listened to the events unfold, and today is quite somber here in Las Vegas. Frank and I were sitting in the hottub when news broke that shots were fired at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. He quickly opened his police scanner app and we heard the sirens from Henderson responding to plea for help. The severity of the situation became vastly apparent we began checking on loved ones. Frank also called his staff to be sure they were safe and secure. There was so much uncertainty of what was real and what was fake the casinos went on lockdown and shelter in place was enforced.

There were possible shooters at NYNY, Tropicana, The Park, Aria, Caesars, Paris, Harrahs and even as far as Circus Circus. Thankfully, all came back negative. A bomb was suspected at Luxor, but that was negative too. SWAT was immediately dispatched to Mandalay Bay and the property was evacuated. We could hear radio clips as teams closed in on the suspect's hotel suite on the 32nd floor. Shortly after we heard a blast and then confirmation that the suspect was dead. As details emerged and casualty count rose, I grew sick. For the next four hours we scoured videos, reached out to friends and shared information. I was so thankful that I was home and I knew my family was safe. I know far too many weren't so fortunate. The agony of the unknown still plagues them. My heart aches for everyone hurt by this attack.

I'm also incredibly proud of my city. Dispatchers on the scanner were amazingly calm and collected. First responders were on the scene quickly. Medical staff across the city sprang in action and today blood centers are overwhelmed with folks lined up ready to donate. A Go Fund Me was set up to assist the victims of this tragedy and over a million dollars has already been raised. The people of Las Vegas are volunteering their time and opening their homes, supplying food, water and battery chargers wherever needed. Cox has opened WiFi hotspots so people can connect as easily and quickly as possible. The outpouring of support shines bright during this dark, dark time.




Since the loss of my mom just shy of two years ago, I have learned that losing a parent is a wound that never heals. Still raw from that void in our hearts, we now know that the most painful goodbyes are those that are unexplained. Dad, you will be missed more than you could know. I love you. I'm grateful for our time shared and memories made, and I will hold those over the past couple years most dear.

Sunbasket: Italian Sausage, Red Pepper, Broccoli and Celery Root Mash



I was really excited to try this Sunbasket meal. To cut back on carbs it called for Celery Root. I was intrigued. First of all, I've never even tried celery root let alone prepared it. Second, I'm always looking for new ways to reduce carbs. While I love them truly. madly. deeply. I simply cannot carb load like I could in my younger years. I try to practice restraint, tasty alternatives help the cause.

Furthermore, this recipe also included a note from Sunbasket, it stated they had to substitute the Italian sausage links for ground sausage per quality control and they provided alternate cooking instructions. Fortunately, Italian sausage is a staple in our house. So, I instead defrosted a couple links from the freezer and opted to use the provided sausage at a later date (which ultimately was used for meat sauce over rigatoni - proving it's hard for me to resist carbs).


I placed the sausages, bell pepper and broccoli onto a sheet pan and roasted them in the oven until the sausage was cooked through and the veggies were tender (and later tossed them with sherry vinegar). Meanwhile, I prepared the celery root mash. It was easier to work with than I imagined, had I seen it in the grocery store I'd be intimidated. I trimmed the skin and cut the flesh into quarters and then 1/4" thick slices. I heated butter in a sauce pan and then added thinly sliced shallots and the sliced celery root, cooking it until tender. Once softened, I added vegetable broth and brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer until I was able to use the masher. It came together very much like mashed potatoes. The depth and richness was a pleasant surprise. Frank and I both liked the mash and combined with the peppers and broccoli was a fun twist on the sausage and peppers we typically enjoy. I could make this again and again, I don't think I'd hear any complaints.

Breaking 30 Badly


Amy and I threw, our brother Mike, a surprise 30th birthday party with a Breaking Bad theme. The cake was killer, it was a definite center piece. It came out even better than we expected, complete with Los Pollos Hermanos chickens, a bacon 30, Heisenberg, and a cartoon Jesse and Walt in hazmat suits, and, of course, blue meth. The theme was carried throughout our menu, we served roof pizza, Los Pollos Hermanos Chicken Wings, Heisenbergers (cheeseburger sliders), madrigal sauces, awkward guacamole, funyuns and blue rock candy. You could wash it down with Shraderbrau or blue barrel juice for the kids.









Decorations were a bit sparse, we were smack dab in the middle of our painting project. Time already wasn't on my side, I was further delayed when the guest of honor showed up unannounced about two hours before his party. I scrambled to keep him out of the fridge and party details out of sight while I came up with an excuse to send him to my sisters until the big reveal. We had nods to the show scattered inside and out. In hindsight, I could've done a better job capturing the details. However, we pulled off the surprise and had a fun celebration. I can't ask for better than that.


Summer Madness


I didn't plan on taking a hiatus in July, but here we are three weeks into July. It's not like there were trips that occupied the gap. I haven't traveled a bit since April - I'm suffering from wanderlust, BIG time! We have a weekend planned in San Diego next month, but that's all that's on my calendar. Frank, on the other hand, just returned from Laughlin, Tahoe and Reno. His travels were for work so it wasn't all fun & games. He's been swamped. He could use a breather. We plan to cross over to Tijuana on our San Diego trip. I'm super excited to see what it's like just over the border. I hear the food scene is amazing! I have no doubt we'll be in for a treat.I've kept busy with projects around the house. We've added shutters, painted several rooms and we've been shopping for floors. Even when it's not fully DIY it's still rather time consuming researching options, setting appointments, and scheduling work to be done. I think we've chosen our floors. We've gone round and round, but I'm pretty certain we will go with wood like tile planks. It is going to be a huge project, there is over 1100 sq ft of tile on the lower level alone. I'm ready to pull the trigger, but scheduling it will be tricky. Here's hoping we can sort it out sooner than later. I'll be sharing before and afters so stay tuned for those.When I haven't been searching home improvement stuff, I've been shopping for a new car. Ugh, is there anything worse?! My Elantra is only a 2013, I had plans of keeping it for the long haul, but its turned out to be a bit of a lemon. The engine was replaced at 24,000 miles and it seems I'm well on my way to my third as I approach 48,000. I've gotten mailers for extended warranties on airbags, etc for parts that are faulty. No recall, just extended warranties. I'm so cheap, I have complete sticker shock going to the dealer. Frank is a master negotiator - I'm so grateful - still, we haven't found a dealer motivated enough to sell me a car. With any luck, as 2017 ticks by, I'll finally be able to snag a deal that I can live with. The prices I've seen so far are simply ridiculous, it's a pill I just can't swallow. I feel alone in this, though; as I drive around town I see nothing, but new rides that cost $40k+. I cringe when thinking of spending half that. I cannot even imagine. I suspect a car bubble is coming soon. I've been thoroughly enjoying summer thus far - the recent humidity from the monsoonal moisture, less so. I've lost count of how many times I've been in the pool this year. The sunny days and warm temps have allowed the water to hang right around 90 degrees which is just right, if you ask me. Frank has been killing it as pool boy, the water has been crystal clear and there hasn't been a single algae bloom which is pretty remarkable given the high temps. The kids love the pool. Addy's confidence has grown by leaps and bounds. She can hold her breath under water like a pro and she's learning motions to swim. Lex is a wild child. Completely fearless. She had tubes put in her ears this spring and that is the only thing holding her back. She insists she's the next Michael Phelps. She thinks she can swim and jump in with no supervision necessary. When you hover, she just pushes away and snaps "stop it!" She can teeter on every last nerve, but I adore that sassy pants wild child. We had a great low-key 4th of July with just the family. Frank, Jeff and Mike recruited Nick to assist with this year's firework show. It went off without a hitch, a few neighbors had quite the spread too, so i[...]

Restaurant Week: Sugarcane


Honestly, I had not even heard of Sugarcane until we walked passed it on our way to Chica. Apparently, it's been open since November. I completely glossed over the menu on Three Square's page too. Had I seen it, I definitely would've been intrigued. It turns out, Sugarcane is a miami-based restaurant by the same group that runs SushiSamba at the Grand Canal Shoppes. Menu items come from the raw bar, the grill or the kitchen. We received a sampling with the $40 Restaurant Week Menu. When our group of six arrived after having just walked out of Chica, Sugarcane's hostesses were friendly and accommodating despite having no reservations. We were seated at large table just off the grill. Our server was fantastic, she catered to our every need.


We began with dishes from the raw bar. First was the Snapper Ceviche. The flavors were clean and fresh, the sweet potato provided a bit of sweetness and the crispy maiz gave the dish a crunchy bite. Second was the Salmon Poke which was my favorite. It was light, citrusy and just the right amount of salty. I loved the texture of the puffed rice. The Hokkaido Scallop Crudo was a tasty bite with apple and hint of black truffle.


The kitchen prepared Brussels Sprouts that were positively addictive. So, much so we ordered an extra for the table to share. The Bacon Wrapped Date with linguca sausage was also a crowd pleaser. We enjoyed the meaty bite with the hint of sweetness. The Goat Cheese Croquettes were fried with a crispy exterior and a smooth creamy center. I have an aversion to goat cheese, but it looked so good I dug in to give it a try. However, I do no like goat cheese; no matter how well it's prepared or how often I try.

Next up were items from the grill. We sampled the Korean Short Ribs, Spanish Octopus and Chicken Breast with Yakitori sauce. I love octopus when it's done well. Unfortunately, the sauce was too assertive for such a delicate protein. The short ribs had good flavor, but it made me miss neighborhood Korean eateries. The chicken breast was the highlight. Great flavor, juicy and nice grill marks. It's quite rare when chicken is my favorite. They nailed it, though.


We had quite the spread already and dessert was yet to come. I was most excited for the Nutella Sundae, but it was the Torrejas that won me over. It is dulce de leche soaked french toast with carmelized apples and cinnamon ice cream. The french toast is truly outstanding. It's buttery rich and perfectly toasted with a soft center. It was a brioche to top all brioches. They soak it overnight and creme brulee the slices. A definite labor of love.

Sugarcane was such a delightful surprise. I'm happy we stumbled upon it. Restaurant Week ends today, but Sugarcane and a select Venetian restaurants will be honoring the menu until July 7, there's still time to check out this amazing deal.

Restaurant Week: Del Frisco's


Typically, I shy away from chains. However, there are a handful that deliver on quality food and top notch service. Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab and CUT come to mind. Technically, Cleo, too, since it has locations in LA and Miami. It might be too early to lump Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse in that group with only one meal under our belt, but our group agreed that our expectations were exceeded when we dined for Three Square's Restaurant Week. The $50 menu showcased several of the restaurant's most popular dishes. Around the table we had the Filet Medallions, Crab Cakes, the 16oz Prime NY Strip and the 8oz Filet Mignon. [photo: Del Frisco's]Our jovial table became silent once the food arrived, because we were chowing on the delicious spread. Everything was cooked to perfection and well seasoned. The side of green beans were fresh and garlicky and the potatoes were served mashed with skins with heaps of green onion. [Photo: Yelp/Mitch W]Just as we thought we had done all damage we could muster, we remembered dessert was on the way. This strawberry cheesecake was stellar. There were no artificial flavors, only a punch of fresh ripened strawberries drizzled on top on the creamy whipped cheesecake. It was so light you'd think it came from the heavens. The pecan graham cracker crust might have been my favorite part. It was gone before I could truly decide. It's worth noting how comfortable the dining accommodations were, it has been a while since I wasn't restless by the end of the meal. I welcomed the practical in place of the stylish trends and the not too close tables, that allowed for easy conversation while we broke bread. This place drips mahogany from floor to ceiling, it's accented by white linen table cloths and leather dining chairs. Classic and clean, it'll make you yearn for the good ol' days. The dining room is made of several private dining areas, the main hall and bar. We were seated in the former smoking room equipped with a small humidor in the corner. Those that enjoy a good stick can still smoke on the outdoor patio. Time is nearly up on restaurant week, but Del Frisco's is currently running a three course meal on Sundays for $59. I may have to check it out.[...]

Sunbasket: Lemongrass Coriander Pork Chops & Greens



Sunbasket provides all the ingredients to prepare a meal. Occasionally, they will throw together a premade marinade, sauce or spice blend to season a dish in order to provide a particular flavor profile. Their lemongrass mix is positively scrumptious. It's a simple blend with lemongrass, olive oil and coriander seeds; but oh, so good! We first tried it with these pork chops, but now, whenever I see a recipe that calls for it, I quickly add it to my order.

As you can see from the small collection of items below, this meal came together easily. The shallots and scallions are a breeze to chop. I use a small hand grater for garlic and ginger, since my knife skills are lacking. This was my first time wilting greens and I probably rushed them. They could have used more time, the thicker leafy greens weren't very tender. Lesson learned. Those pork chops, though, I'm eager to see those again in the weekly line up. Tender, juicky and amazing flavor. Yum.


Restaurant Week: Chica


[Photo: Eater/Amelinda B Lee]

I hadn't heard of Chica until Three Square released the menus for Restaurant Week. It opened in the space that was formerly Daniel Boulud Brasserie about six weeks ago. It's a partnership between Lorena Garcia, of Top Chef Masters fame, and 50 Eggs that operates the neighboring Yardbird. The $40 dinner menu sounded fantastic. I was easily sold when our friend made the suggestion, I quickly booked a reservation for six. That was a couple weeks ago.

Last night, our group arrived promptly, I checked us in. The hostesses fiddled with their system for a few minutes before telling me that they'll grab us when a table is ready. About five minutes later, we were led to a large bar height table shared with another group. Bar height dining is terrible for short people. Our friend requested another table since the dining room was far from capacity. One large table was free, but the hostess said it was reserved for a group at the bar and nothing else was available. We reluctantly took our seats. We gazed at the menu and took notice the restaurant week menu wasn't provided. No waiter or waitress appeared for us, or the group at the other end of the table. We were left to graze on that line of how much time is acceptable to be greeted after being seated.

Then, the manager approached the table, he confirmed that we preferred to relocate and said they were preparing a table for us. Perfect! Or, so, we thought. We waited and waited. We had nothing but time to study the fairly empty dining room that really didn't fit the expectation of a lively Latin American restaurant. The atmosphere was subdued with music that was a little too loud and a giant television at the entrance that increased the noise of the room that felt simply unnecessary. It felt cold and industrial with many grey walls and, stone and iron work. We were sandwiched between the bar and unattended ceviche counter. The only pops of color noted were the yellow chairs and purple napkins. Enough time had passed that we were setting odds on what would happen next... We'd be moved, a waiter would appear or we'd walk out? Smart money was on our departure.

With our patience depleted, we left. There are too many options literally steps away to continue to waste our time. The food could be delicious. I may never know.