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Tales and Tidbits from the Desert...

Updated: 2018-04-20T13:52:37.680-07:00


Costa Rica: In & Around Jaco


Back around the start of the New Year we decided to plan a trip with Bob and Hugh. We wanted to go somewhere new to each of us, ultimately, we decided on Costa Rica. We flew out on Saturday and we'd pick them up at the San Jose airport on Monday afternoon. Our United flight via Houston was delayed, which gave us an opportunity to sample some BBQ. Once we arrived into San Jose, we quickly made our way through immigration and customs lines. We traveled light with only two underseat carry-ons which certainly made the process more smooth. We rented a 4WD SUV from Adobe and we were please to easily find them outside after exiting the airport. We took a shuttle to the rental location offsite. Our rental experience was exceptional from start to finish. There were no hoops or hidden fees, no timeshare hawkers, just friendly customer service and a brand spanking new SsangYong Korando. Short of the Hilux, we got in Nicaragua, this was the nicest rental we've had to date.Jaco is the closest major beachside destination to the capital city of San Jose, so it was an easy choice for our first two nights. We actually stayed just outside the city at Punta Leona. It's a resort community built around a nature reserve that is home to the most beautiful beach in the area, Playa Blanca. It was also one of the most crowded. We didn't stay long and opted to explore the coast line from Tarcoles to the north and Playa Hermosa to the south.Our room at Punta Leona was basic with all the necessary comforts. Breakfast was included, there was a spread of fruits and typical Costa Rica fare like rice and beans. Plus, eggs any way you wanted them. The first night, we also ate dinner at the restaurant which only served a buffet for $22 per person. It was definitely overpriced, but we were fond of the cheese empanadas so all was not lost. Playa Hermosa was the sleepiest beach we visited, we grabbed a small bite at a beachfront restaurant. Frank enjoyed a protein smoothie and I had a yummy fish ceviche with tostones. I also ordered a fruity cocktail with pineapple, coconut, tequila and rum. Frank's worst nightmare, but I found it delicious.Bars and restaurants line the main drag through Jaco. We checked out the resort casino named Croc's. During the day, no table games were open; it was strictly slots. Frank made a donation and we checked out the beach. Warnings are posted everywhere for riptides and the black sand was quite hot. People were few and far between. We checked out the marina at Los Suenos in search of a cigar bar that no longer exists. Costa Rica is not smoker friendly so it's no surprise it shuttered. The lack of cigarette smoke was a welcome surprise, but Frank missed relaxing with a fat stogie. The beach at Playa Herradura was bustling with locals. They had Sunday funday down pat - they strung hammocks between the trees and fired up grills (repurposed tire rims) and made a day of it.Tarcoles is mainly known for its croc tours since it's home to one of the world's largest crocodile populations. The river there is the most polluted in Costa Rica. We only drove through the town along the coast and crossed the bridge over the river on our way into Jaco.Just in time for sunset we found a cozy spot on Playa Pita to soak up the days final rays. Frank was finally able to enjoy his long awaited cigar.We concluded our day with dinner at Los Chanchitos, it's located on the main highway just minutes from Punta Leona. It was one of our more reasonably priced meals and it was quite tasty too. Fifty bucks bought us guacamole, tortilla soup and grilled seabass. Plus, a margarita, Imperial cerveza and 12 year Flor de Cana. [...]




Lucky in Love & More


Today marks our 14th wedding anniversary and on April 1st Frank and I celebrated twenty-one years together. I feel like the slot machine has lined up a big win.

Lately, life has felt like we've been living it on fast forward. There are simply not enough hours in the day. We just returned from Costa Rica and we have trips planned to San Diego and Cabo. So, life isn't slowing down any time soon.

And how about those Knights?! The playoffs have already had us on the edge of the seat. We should've expected that, though; the regular season was one nail biter after another. We didn't attend any playoff games, yet, because we were traveling, but hopefully soon! Seeing them clinch their division and secure their playoff spot in the inaugural season was pretty amazing -- anything more, will purely be astonishing.

Play Ball


After a two year hiatus I finally made it back to Phoenix for Spring Training. I love going to the games, it is so laid back and intimate. Plus, the weather is typically gorgeous and it serves as a wonderful way to welcome spring. This year, though, we were met with rain and cooler temps. But, by the White Sox game on Sunday, it was warm and sunny - all was right in the world. We saw three games in two days. We first caught the Rangers and A's game in Surprise on Saturday afternoon. We bought tickets shortly before the game. We sat in the corner along the third baseline. It offered a neat perspective. There was no one in front of us and I appreciated the lack of distractions. A few innings into the game, it started to sprinkle, much to the surprise to everyone including the weathermen - the sprinkle became a drizzle and turned into a full on shower and the rain fell until about 7:30pm; and then, scattered showers continued into the wee hours of the morning. I've never experienced weather in Phoenix, I come to expect warmth and sunshine. I was a little stunned to see it so wet and dreary. We grabbed an early dinner with friends at Little Sicily. The company and the pizza were a delight. We weren't sure if the rain was going to let up for the evening game at Camelback Ranch; our friend was able to get us prime seats for Dodgers vs. the Cubs so we remained hopeful it would clear up. At game time, it was still wet, but thankfully, the rain stopped shortly after we found our seats. Which were amazing! I have never sat directly behind home plate before so it was a treat. There was no question whether pitches were balls or strikes. It was my first Cubs game. I've only ever seen them play the White Sox in the crosstown series previously. With Arrieta gone, and Kris Bryant not in attendance there was no eye candy to distract me. I was happy to root for the Dodgers, and even more thrilled when they won. Sunday, we made a stop at Rudy's Bar-B-Que. Yes, that tasty chain from Texas. We had the sausage, moist brisket and smoked turkey. It was the real deal. Oh, man. So good! It's nice to know we can get a fix within a few hours drive of home. The White Sox won against the Diamondbacks. We had awesome seats again, this time, third row just to the left of the Sox dugout. It's been so long since I've seen White Sox baseball, only one player remains on the team that I have seen play before, Jose Abreau. They looked great out there. So good, in fact, I think it was the first win we witnessed in Spring Training since we started going ten years ago. Until next time! Go Sox![...]

Game Day Ready



Bags are Packed...


And my teeth are on the move! It's rather impressive how much movement I have experienced in two months time. Besides the gap that continues to grow larger, I have more space between the rest of my upper teeth. Flossing has never been easier. My two front teeth no longer tilt inward. Last month, I started adjusting all three screws in my appliance. Encouraging movement in multiple directions is definitely more uncomfortable, but the tenderness and headache usually only last a day or two.

Eating is only a problem after my weekly adjustments. Once the discomfort fades I can eat without much trouble. Greens still give me trouble and I haven't had steak or anything tough. I try to keep my carbohydrate intake at a minimum, but rice and potatoes remain a large part of my diet. Despite that, I'm losing weight so I'll take it. More recently I've noticed that as my upper jaw expands I'm having more trouble biting into things since my lower jaw sits so far back and under; it's a struggle to have the teeth meet. My next in office adjustment is next week so I'm anxious to learn how much longer I'll have that obstacle. I fear it will be quite sometime, since I was told I'd wear this appliance for six months. I'm hopeful for less time, however.

After being sick all of January, I felt better for a couple days and then my sickness returned with a vengeance. The flu was going around like something fierce so I wanted to stay out of the quick care clinics, I opted for another virtual visit. This time, I was given antibiotics. I didn't start feeling better until day 7 after starting the Zpack. I was sick for six weeks. I still have post nasal drip and a cough that lingers. I don't know if it's allergies, now, or what. In any case, I am very much looking forward to feeling well again.

Superb Owl


How is it that we are already in the second month of 2018?! Madness, I tell you. I don't mind that we are whipping through winter. I heard the ground hog calls for six more weeks... no bueno. We've been lucky in my neck of the woods. It hasn't been too cold and the chill seems to be in the past. Temps have already been reaching the 70's and more of the same is in the forecast. At this rate, we might be in the pool before St. Patrick's Day this year. Frank has already drained it and changed all the filters so it's ready to go. Addison has a new swim suit so she's ready too. Lex, man, I'm not sure I'm ready for her in the pool. She has no fear and she was such a dare devil last summer. Cue my anxiety. That girl just turned two! She is a force to be reckoned with, she'll definitely give us a run for our money.Sunday is the Big Game or the Superb Owl. We don't want to call it what it actually is, we don't want to infuriate the NFL. I haven't a care who wins the battle for the ball this Sunday. I'm more looking forward to brunching with the Golden Knights. I hear the puck drops at 9:30AM PST at the Washington Capitals. I'll be tuning in for that. There may be a bloody mary or two consumed. Those guys have been such fun to watch this season. Back in November, we picked up a second set of season tickets in the lower bowl. We'll be renewing both sets for next season. We just can't get enough. We'll also be supporting the Las Vegas Lights. Frank picked up two season tickets at Cashman Field. I know next to nothing about Soccer, but I quickly adapted to hockey. So, I look forward to learning to be a fan. Usually, Frank and I are counting down the hours to vacation about now. We have made it routine to escape the city immediately following football's favorite Sunday. This year, though, we're staying put. We'll be getting flooring instead. We have needed to replace the carpet and sheet vinyl in the kitchen, utility and bathrooms since we moved in. We've been round and round trying to determine what material and where? It's a large project over 1100 square feet. So, there was also the time component. We had my dad babysit the painters last year, and intended to have him do the same for the floors, but life had other plans. We were fortunate that our newly retired friends volunteered to house sit for us. Once they had availability we went into action to get the floors selected and scheduled. We are going with plank tiles that look like wood. I like the warmth wood provides, but it's not practical in the areas we are flooring. All the rooms are exposed to water whether it's from wet feet from the pool, rogue ice cubes, shower spray or the washer hose corroding and creating our very own water feature in our upstairs laundry room. The 10 foot spray quickly filled the room with inches of water and rapidly created a sprinkler in the utility room ceiling light fixture directly beneath it. Causing not one, but two rooms to flood. That was a real joy, last spring. We also considered installing luxury vinyl, but it was cheaper to go with the tile. I debated selecting a different tile for the bathrooms, but ultimately the transitions felt like they'd be weird in multiple areas, so we decided to go with one look throughout. It will be cohesive and clean. Plus, it's more budget friendly. When we first moved into the house, I swore the first project would be our bathroom since it's carpeted. Ugh. I hate it. I really don't know how I've tolerated it this long. Carpet just does not belong in the bathroom. I don't know if I'm more excited that we'll finally be rid of it there or in the kitchen/living area. The carpet transitions to the sheet vinyl right along the island. This is the heaviest traffic area in the house and it shows on the carpet. It's been worn thin for more than a year. If you choose your step[...]

January Fog


"You're boring! Completely and utterly boring!" That's what the doctor had to say when I saw him more than two weeks ago. My labs were perfect, my knee xray was unremarkable and my ears were clear as can be. He suggested I try a decongestant to resolve the crackle I described in my ears. I've never been so disappointed to have a clean bill of health. If I'm perfectly healthy, then, why do I feel so shitty?! I popped Advil Cold and Sinus the whole weekend, the crackle improved, but the pressure was unbearable. The following Tuesday, I went in to see the TMJ dentist. I supplied him with my laundry list of complaints and he adjusted the appliance, applied some suture release techniques, and suggested a nightly dose of Vitamin C. It didn't provide much relief, but the adjustment stopped me from biting my tongue so that ulcer has been able to heal. The following day, I felt like I busted my face - like my skull had fractured. I was miserable. Later that night, I teared up watching "600 LB Life" and then my nose started to drip. Thursday, I was so congested, I felt I was underwater. I went into work, only to be sent home. That afternoon and the next four days are a blur. I rotated between the recliner and spare bed propped up on half a dozen pillows. I wanted to keep the sickness out of my chest. I tried all sorts of OTC medicine and finally (last) Monday, I threw in the towel and wanted to see a doctor. The local quick care clinic had a wait of 90 minutes, while on their site I noticed an ad for the NOW Clinic which touted no waiting via virtual appointment. It sounded good to me! No leaving the house, no wait, no exposure to an even worse virus or the flu. Sign me up! Of course, the registration was flawed. I couldn't create an account because it claimed one existed, when I tried to resend the username/password it said the account didn't exist. I called the number and held for 33 minutes. A gentlemen solved the problem and kindly waited on the line until I was able to successfully login. Then, $10 and 8 minutes later I was connected with a doctor in Florida. We Skype, I tell him I'm convinced that my cold has turned into a sinus infection, but he insisted I have the virus that everyone is getting coast to coast. He asked who at work or at home is sick? A few coworkers caught cold over Christmas and New Years break, but that's about it. Maybe I picked it up at the doctors office on the 12th? Who knows? I just want to feel better. No antibiotics, but he'll call in some RXs stronger than my OTC medicines. I sent Frank to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions, he came back with the same strength decongestant I was taking, 600 mg of Ibuprofen and Promethazine. That was a week ago. I felt like crap through the weekend, but I never had a fever or shortness of breath so I guess I was fine. It's perfectly normal to sleep for hours on end. Yesterday, I finally got color back, and today, I finally feel relief from congestion. A tickle remains in my throat and my ears feel full, but I can breathe. Thank goodness.I'm a week shy of a month wearing the appliance. I'm still not a fan, but I guess I've acclimated to it. I can eat more foods, but my diet is very heavy on carbs. I really miss greens. I still plan my meals around brushings. So, snacking is definitely a thing of the past. You want to lose weight? Start brushing & flossing after everything you chew. You'll quickly find what a nuisance it is. Between brushing and being sick, I don't think my lips will ever be soft again, but I'm continuously applying chapstick to keep the cracks from bleeding. On day 17, I noticed the first visible change, a space began to form between my two front teeth. I suppose that means it's working.[...]

8 Days In


Last Wednesday evening, I stood in front of my bathroom sink for nearly an hour... Just to practice spitting. Gross, right? Thankfully, I've since gotten my saliva somewhat under control. I'm no longer gagging or insistent that I'll drown in my own spit, but there is still an abundance. I have a sore throat, clogged ears and sinus pressure. Sounds like a cold, right? But I'm not sick. I'm beginning to wonder if some of the achiness I feel is from my salivary glands working overtime? Maybe creating post nasal drip or something. The first couple days I had brutal acid reflux like I used to get before my allergy shots. I go to the doctor tomorrow with any luck he'll provide me a better understanding of what's going on. I've never been so excited to go, I want my ears examined so badly. There is so much pressure, sensitivity, clicking, crackle and echo - I'm so over it. They haven't felt this bad since I had an ear infection two years ago. I'm actually hoping that there is an infection and all it will take is a round of antibiotics to begin feeling better. It definitely sounds like a better alternative than the source of the discomfort being this appliance or the latest TMD symptom. Fortunately, my speech improved fairly quickly. I could barely form words without gagging the first day. By the third, I could say most words. It just sounds like I'm chewing gum or sucking on a cough drop. Though, some words do trip me up and a lisp is occasionally clear. I practiced by speaking aloud, reading anything in sight. I have to speak slower and enunciate more, but there is no more gagging - thank goodness. My jaw just grows tired and saliva increases the more I talk. ...The more my throat hurts. I'm sure you can recognize the cycle. Anything with carbonation is somewhat soothing. Needless to say, my diet coke habit has doubled or even tripled.My teeth brushing, flossing and cleaning of the appliance routine is down to ten minutes from thirty. I've eaten a few things of substance like a burger from Freddy's and a grilled cheese. I tire easily and it takes me a long time and I rarely finish anything, but I can chew... sorta. I can eat soft noodles, I made chili thinking I could manage, but the chunks of tomato were too hard to chew. I pureed it and doing so provided great relief. The meal was no longer a chore. My hands and lips are dry as can be from (toothpaste) brushing 3x/day. I no longer snack and I drink protein for breakfast to save me one brushing. I've developed an ulcer on the right side of my tongue. It doesn't feel like there is enough room for it and this appliance in my mouth. I wanted to wait for the first adjustment to see if it helped the positioning. So far, today, it is better. But it didn't develop until the forth day or so, so I'm not confident that the problem is corrected. I fear once it settles in, it will bother me again.By settling in, I mean that when I first got the appliance it didn't seem to really fit. Pressure on my teeth was more intense and there was a large gap between the roof of my mouth and the appliance. As the week went on, the gap got smaller. The more snug it got less food was captured, my speech was better and my muscles relaxed a bit. I was feeling pretty confident yesterday. My discomfort was easing up, chewing wasn't quite as hard and my speech felt almost normal. I wasn't popping ibuprofen every four hours. Then, it was time for the first adjustment. One crank of the key and I was back to feeling like I did last week. Everything was harder again. I'm so tired today as a result. I'm afraid this will be the drill over the next 6 months. Which if that's all it would take, I could cope a bit easier. But I have an incredibly long road ahead of me. When I outgrow this appliance then, it's on to the ne[...]

To Do List



And So it Begins


As I previously mentioned, some big changes are in store this year. The first of which has begun. I'm embarking on what's to be expected as a two year (maybe three) journey to correct my bite and provide relief and (hopefully) repair my temporomandibular joint. About seven years now, I've had TMD symptoms, but the severity has worsened in recent years. It's become a daily burden. Back in August, my symptoms became pretty severe hindering every day activities like chewing, yawning, kissing, etc. No matter what I tried to ease the discomfort, nothing provided relief. I was referred to a TMJ Specialist. I underwent a series of exams, tests and imaging. My issues were clear from the very first panoramic xray and everything else supported the diagnoses. First, I have a Class II Division 2 Malocclusion. My overbite is so bad, my upper teeth completely cover those on the bottom. I've chipped a tooth and the one next to it has become loose. My lower jaw has receded over the years. I also have significant damage to the left TMJ joint and both joints show signs of arthritis. The left disc is displaced and the condyle which is the bone that fits into the joint has been worn flat. Normally, these are rounded. When my jaw opens and closes it shifts to the side sort of like a misaligned jewelry box. This causes pain in the joint, ear, tension in the neck and shoulders and headaches. I have bone deposits on my skull from the tension - the muscle on the right side of neck is tight like a banjo. No amount of manipulation releases it. It is literally a constant pain in the neck. My treatment plan includes multiple appliances over the course of a year (or two) followed by another year in wire braces. Or in other words, I'm on my way to gilding yet another joint in gold. Yesterday, I received my first expansion appliance. This is a custom fit, with three sets of screws. I will turn only one for now once per week. This will push my two front teeth outward. Down the road, I'll start adjusting the other two which will expand/grow the roof of my mouth. Which is much too narrow. Once the expansion takes place, I'll transition to a twin block which will encourage forward growth of the lower jaw, and finally the braces will align everything as it should be. Correcting the bite will allow the joint to sit in the proper position which should promote healing. I'm told I should feel relief from TMD symptoms shortly because it will be under less stress.I'm only a day in, but right now, it seems unfathomable that it will feel comfortable to have equipment in my mouth 24/7. The only saving grace is that the appliance is removable. If it were fixed, it'd be a deal breaker. I'd have countless panic attacks if that were the case. I'm only to remove the appliance for cleaning when brushing my teeth. Currently, I have an abundance of saliva. I'm told this will improve. It is difficult to swallow and a challenge to speak. I keep practicing so I'm hopeful for a quick adjustment. Eating is the most difficult task. Only my front teeth feel free so little bites are all I can handle. But, I can't really push food again the roof of my mouth. It just gets stuck around the appliance. It feels awful and it is utterly disgusting how much gets caught up in the crevices and around the screws. There will be a large learning curve.Fortunately, sleep came easier than I expected. I thought for sure I'd drown from the amount of saliva and inability to fully clear it. But there was no gagging - so some of my troubles are more anxiety driven. Usually, I wake with a sore jaw and teeth. This morning my jaw felt more relaxed which was nice. However, I have a weird sensation in my ears. They were clicking like mad this morning, but i[...]

Thoughts for the New Year



Another One Bites the Dust


I'm not sure how it's possible, but 2018 is here! It seems like only yesterday the world was a buzz for Y2K. Yet, kids born in 2000 will turn 18 this year. Freaky. Earthquakes, hurricanes, fires and floods, and most recently bitter cold. It is safe to say 2017 was rough! It was tough on Las Vegas with the 1 October shooting. Losing my dad so suddenly was hard on me. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing good riddance to 2017. Thankfully, I had just enough grit to see me through.Even in the most shitastic years there are plenty of beautiful moments and treasured memories. I try to focus on the good, rather than dwell on the heart ache. Even if challenges outweighed my triumphs I'm extremely fortunate to have my home, my health and my core. Frank, Mike and Amy and the kids make me whole. To see them thrive and grow make all the difference in my world.It felt like I longed for trips on the calendar. The end of the year felt like a real drought, but we snuck in a few trips. Overall, we traveled far more than I had realized, with trips to San Felipe, San Diego, Cancun (Tulum, Mahahual, Xpu-ha, Akumal, and Playa del Carmen), Hualapai Mountain, Los Cabos (La Paz, Buena Vista, Los Barriles, La Ventana, El Sargento, Todos Santos, El Pescadero and Cerritos), San Diego (Tijuana), Chicago (Johnson's Beach, IN), Palm Springs, Chicago, Louisville (Frankfort) and finally San Francisco. After 20 years together Frank and I found something new - Hockey. Watching the Vegas Golden Knights has been a wild ride. The city was ready for a professional sport and they came when the community needed it most. We've rallied and united. The games are electric. It's been great fun. Dining has taken back seat, we're cooking more at home. But we still visited our favorites (Cleo, Joe's and Mariscos Playa Escondido) and found some new gems like Meraki and El Tamalucas.In 2017 we got started with home improvements by painting and adding shutters. There will be more to come in 2018. More importantly, we'll be improving ourselves.The past few years have really taken a toll on me. I'm hopeful 2018 will be magical. If nothing else more kind. Unlike years past, I've chosen a word to kick off the new year because I know there are big changes on the horizon. Resilience. With any luck it will serve me well, and provide encouragement and inspiration as I navigate these 365 days of 2018.And now, the notable of 2017 (local eats were lacking this year; so they've been excluded):Biggest Regret - Letting my dad return home in JulyDo More - That feeds my soulTRAVELSLife Changing - Carne Asada Tacos, TijuanaBest Eats - San Francisco it's such a melting pot; the best of every cuisine. SuppenkücheMost Disappointing - Baja Fish Tacos San Felipe CaboMost Relaxing - Farewell tour of Al Cielo, Xpu-Ha ENTERTAINMENTBest Song - Good Old Days, Macklemore and Kesha. Best Album - Divide, Ed SheeranBest TV Show - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, AmazonBest Concert - Rebelution at Mandalay BeachBest Movie - Slim pickings. Pretty sure I saw three and not one wowed me.Television Movie - The Wizard of Lies, HBO.[...]

My Sugar Plums





The Turkey with a Boob Job


Turkey Day came early for us this year. We celebrated with the family on Sunday because Frank and I will be traveling to Kentucky over the holiday. We will spend Thanksgiving with Frank's family. Bob and Hugh are hosting us. I sent my Sunbasket order to Bob's to assist with the meal. We arrive mid afternoon on Thursday so shopping was out of the question. I'm hopeful the meal kit will work out as beautifully as intended. The family is all in Kentucky this year, because Frank's cousin is getting married at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Initially, I wasn't going to attend because airfare was more than $700 on Southwest. I was able to reserve Frank a more affordable fare because we was able to stay until Tuesday. I, on the other hand, must be back to work Monday morning. Last minute, though, I was able to find fairly cheap fares on Allegiant. They recently started flying to Louisville, and their schedule doesn't allow flights every day, but for this trip, it was just what we needed. I cancelled Frank's flight on Southwest and rebooked him sharing my dates. It ought to be a nice time.A little over a week ago, I took requests for our Thanksgiving feast. Nick wanted glazed carrots, Jeff wanted asparagus and Frank requested a turkey with implants. What can I say, I like to make things happen. Jeff's request was the only one not honored, not for lack of trying, the asparagus at Albertson's was so thin it would instantly turn to mush. Our turkey was more obscene than I had intended, but it was all in good fun. When life gives you lemons, give your turkey... tatas.This year, I also coated it in a herb butter mask. I also tented only the breast after the first half hour at high heat for about 2.5 hours. Then, removed the foil for the final half hour to achieve even browning. The extras didn't make for a more flavorful bird. Nor did the lemon boobs. It was very moist, but some pieces from the breast were tough. I don't know if that was a result of my doing or not. I stand by loading the area between the skin and the meat with butter, it really does make a difference. I've had great success with juicy turkeys by doing it that way. These Bourbon Maple Glazed Carrots were pretty tasty. I omitted the dill. I probably could have dressed it with parsley, thyme or rosemary since I had all on hand, but it never occurred to me. I have a run of bad luck when it comes to mashed potatoes. One, I'm not particularly fond of them unless they are those by Joel Robuchon, but let's be real those are more butter with an essence of potato. And who does not like butter?! Mashed taters are such a staple I keep trying to find a recipe that works for me. I've tried ricers, whipping them and even the crock pot. Meh. I was going to scrap them this year, but I decided to make one last ditch effort by trying Pioneer Woman's Creamy Mashed Potatoes. They could be made in advance and with all that butter, cream cheese and cream how could they be anything but creamy? They were my greatest success to date, but they're miles from anything Robuchon like. I only cooked dinner for nine, which is far less than I prepared for last year. So, the day was much easier. Plus, Amy brought green bean casserole - um. yum, and Lauren prepared salad with mixed greens, cranberries, apples, walnuts, bacon, and feta. It was the perfect blend of sweet and salty. I rounded our feast out with sausage stuffing (technically, dressing), steamed broccoli and cheese (another of Amy's specialties), cranberries and yeasty dinner rolls. We finished with pumpkin pie for dessert. The bigges[...]

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 ill[...]

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...[...]