Friday, December 29, 2006

Last E Friday of the year

OK, final E Friday of the year – I better use some of these old pics before she gets so much bigger they are irrelevant. Well, these are only a month old so not really so long ago.

One thing she always seems to be doing is laughing. It’s so nice to see somebody always having such a good time.

These are dated November 17, the grass is still green but the leaves are all down now.

And here she is playing with some flowers in the grass – always interested in the little things.

And at the mall, she seems to have made a friend.

Now I better pull together those Christmas pics before it’s into Easter.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jackson alert

For those of you that care - or are interested - Michael Jackson is back in town. Don't know where he is staying, but he was seen Christmas shopping with the kids at Caesar's Palace. Rumor has it that he is working on creating a show on the Strip - maybe he'll be Celene's replacement when her contract runs out next year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Eve with E

OK, here’s Christmas Eve with the E girl. For Lisa, she’s in her stripes again; and with that loverly hair getting longer.

Isn’t that just the picture of cuteness? But she was having a bad hair evening.

I should admit that these were taken with flash. When I turned off the flash the pictures then capture what we usually get to see of her.

But if any of you are around 18 month olds you probably already know them like this. Nothing but a blur most of the time, dancing around and looking at everything.

She had a good time looking at all the ornaments on the tree with grammy.

And at the dinner table she showed us how cute she really could be.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bellagio Christmas

Well, finally Christmas in Vegas again. The snow is all gone (well, it was gone about ten minutes after I took the picture), but we did have some flurries when I drove in to work on Friday. Over on the east side of the valley they had about four inches, which all melted by noon. It was 34f this morning, but due to be up to 60f tomorrow (16c).

We wandered over to the Bellagio last week to see what they did to the conservatory for the holiday. They change the display four or six times a year. We parked over in the Desert Passage lot across the street, it’s easier to get into than the Bellagio lot, which has it’s entrance right on the Strip, and guards that look in your trunk. Still don’t know what they are looking for. I talked about getting the cardboard tubes from the inside of TP rolls, painting them red and putting string fuses in to it would look like cartoon dynamite, but I’d probably get arrested.

We walked past Paris and crossed the pedestrian bridge on the corner, which leads you right into the shopping plaza. Some of the stores had Christmas displays up in the windows.

I think this one is Gucci.

And this was Tiffany’s – not many jewels in the shot, but you can see a small pile of gold in front.

They had the big pile of balls up – last year they were red, now gold this year, along with piles of silver packages tied up in red ribbons.

The conservatory was done up with a cranberry pool again, surrounded by poinsettias’, with a big tree in back.

The tree was surrounded by red poinsettias’, with those arched fountains spitting out nice streams of water. The tree itself was full of lights, with two miles of led strings lacing over it.

There was a polar bear family off to one side, momma here covered with 20,000 carnations. And the big gold ornaments, with icicles in the trees and big glass things overhead.

On the other side were six flying reindeer, covered in a few tons of whole pecans. This was the section this year where it was snowing – every few seconds a puff of plastic snow would fall from the sky. It was last Tuesday, so there were not very many people there, but still a good sized crowd.

So besides all the lights on houses, that’s where we go to see fancy Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


OK, OK, I know it's nothing compared to you guys in Minnesota, but for us it's something.

And even E's wagon got some.

It did look rather heavy coming down around 4:30am, but it had rained just before so everything that hit the ground melted almost immediately. It was 34f when we got up, enough to keep what was on the cars and other things.

So, four years in a row we've had snow here, ever since we moved. The mountains around us are all white, and we are supposed to have more tonight.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dinner at Mix and in Venice

I said a while back that I wanted to do more around town, rather than just hit the Strip when giving out of town guests the tour. Last week we went to see the Blue Man Group over at the Venetian. December is a good time to hit the shows – most of the offer half price deals for locals during the last month of the year. I’ve been wanting to see the blue men since their TV commercials a few years back, but never made it over to the Venetian when they were there.

We started with dinner at the Mexican restaurant upstairs, even got a seat along the railing on the canal.

I don’t know how many Mexican restaurants there are in Venice, but this one was pretty nice. The food was reasonable and pretty good, and the atmosphere was not southwest. You can't see it in the picture, but the sky is blue and full of puffy white clouds.

Across the canal we saw some evidence that the National Finals Rodeo was still in town.

And when walking over to the show I was surprised to see somebody from Texas that I read all the time, but I always pictured her as a much prettier blond.

No shots of the show – they don’t permit cameras, and it was too dark anyway. But I would recommend it for anyone coming out – it was a fun show that involved the audience, rather than one you could just sit back and watch. However, the cheap seats are around $125 each, so it’s not for the budget minded, but then neither is the rest of Vegas.

This past Friday we went for dinner at the Mandalay Bay. Last year we hit Fleur de Lys, and I was very pleased. I made advanced reservations (recommended at most of the good restaurants on weekend nights) and we got one of the side tables, surrounded by cloth walls and very nice and intimate. The food was great and service tremendous.

Well, a few months ago we were walking around with friends and went up to the top of THE hotel at Mandalay to the Mix bar. We had some drinks and looked out over the city during daylight hours, nice Mix view. The bar side is red and black, (fire) the restaurant side is white and glass (ice). The restaurant used to be one of the best in the city, then it changed hands and went downhill. The reputation is getting a little better, and a recent visitor to town recommended it, so I thought we’d try it out.

Different view of the strip at night – there are heaters out on the balcony so you can sit out there, but we were early and cold and just sat inside. After ten it becomes an ‘ultra’ lounge, whatever that is, and is harder to get into. But earlier you just take the glass elevator up the 64 floors and come on in. Still a nice place to sit and look, day or night.

There is the same view from the restaurant around the corner, but it’s not quite the same. There is a long bench seat backed up on the glass, so even if you are sitting on the other side of the tables your view is blocked. You can sit sideways at some of the end tables and get a view, but if you are in the room itself you really can’t see out.

The restaurant side is two stories high, with no soft surfaces. This means it gets really noisy when full. All the conversations echo around. The waiters were friendly, and there were enough of them, but I still sat several times for quite a while trying to wave one down. The food was OK, but not really worth the price. The meal for the two of us, with a glass of wine each, was right at $200, plus tip.

I would recommend Mix for a drink in the bar side, night or day, but would not recommend the restaurant side. Not intimate, not really a view, too noisy, not a very attentive wait staff, and the food wasn’t really worth the price. Go downstairs to Fleur de Lys. Time for us to hit the fancy ones at Bellagio and see what those are like. As locals, I’d much rather hit Rosemary’s and have a lot better meal at half the price.

At home we’re decorating for Christmas. E doesn’t really remember last year, (at least she doesn’t talk about it, but then she can’t talk yet anyway). She does like the ornaments on our tree now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More E Friday

OK, for Virginia Gal it’s E Friday again! And a hope that you did well on those finals you took. Should we keep calling you VG? What state are you in now?

The leaves are falling from the trees, and we are employing the slave labor in our back yard to keep it clean.

Looks like she’s doing a good job. Except for when she stops raking and jumps in the piles scattering them around.

And let’s also get in some stripes for Lisa.

Brown not gaudy enough? If not, we've got red.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Ok, thought it might be time for a post with no pictures. Don’t know why, as I’ve said, I’ve got stacks of E photos. But I seem to get more comments when I complain about something.

We are well into the “holiday” season. (guess I should be politically correct, don’t know why but . . ) I work in the credit card division of a big bank. There are about fifty people in the IT department – from programmers to database people to the analysts and the help desk. There are several hundred in the collections department; the one I work most with, and hundreds more in customer service and other departments. As at most companies the IT group basically ignores the holidays. There are no decorations in cubes, no piles of cookies (except for mine) and no spirit. The collections floor is filled with artificial snow and trees and Santas and snowflakes, but our area is bare.

It’s been like that for every company I have worked for – the technical guys are a bunch of duds as far as company spirit and activities. I’ve tried to push the group without much success. But we now have a new Executive Assistant and a few others tasked as a “Spirit Committee”, similar to what all the other departments have. They distribute balloons for birthdays and company anniversaries and organize activities. The first big one is a group potluck tomorrow. I’m bringing in my famous (well, to me anyway) chocolate cake. Baked it last night, hope my wife doesn’t fulfill her threats of eating it all today.

This past Saturday was the Santa Run downtown. I didn’t make it – other plans were organized before I found out about it. But I’ll have it in my calendar for next year – for the registration fee you get a full Santa outfit, down to the red suit and beard. They had about 4200 show up, trying for 5000. It would be an interesting experience, to be dressed up in a crowd with thousands of other Santas. Hope there weren’t too many kids getting confused. Being Vegas it should have been Elvi.

The Las Vegas Marathon was Sunday. The course runs a block from our house. This year there were two dozen Elvi running as a group. They pushed coolers of beer, don’t know if they made it all the way to the finish line. There was also a ‘run through’ wedding chapel, where a dozen or so people stopped to get married or renew vows. There were about 15,000 runners in the marathon.

There are barrels around the company for a toy drive. They are donated to some local charity, and after being out for almost two weeks are still relatively empty. I usually put stuff in – down in San Diego the Marines were outside of most big toy stores for the Christmas Toys for Tots campaign. Whenever I saw them outside I always purchased something while shopping and gave. But I can also be a Scrooge.

One of the big ‘heart wrenching’ stories recently was pushed by the Make A Wish group locally. An eight year old girl with cancer dreamed of being a rock star, so the group arranged for her to be a rock star for a day. A limo drove her around, she was interviewed on the morning radio show I listen to. The Palms Casino has a recording studio she used to make a record, and later in the evening one of the big casinos put her in one of their lounges to sing, and provided screaming ‘groupies’ to meet her limo out front.

Sorry, but if there is one charity I would ignore it is this one. I know, their line is to offer a dream experience to a young child dying of a terminal disease. Offer them one big adventure in their short lives. I always wondered why money should go for something like that. Look, the kid’s going to die soon anyway. (sound heartless?) If you are so religious, then the kid is going to heaven to live in the ‘Glory of God’ soon, isn’t that reward enough? Wouldn’t it be better to use the money for those kids over there in the poor side of town – maybe buy some new shoes and clothes for kids that don’t get anything but scraps? How about some good meals for those hungry kids, or even a regular breakfast?

Then I think about these things, and perhaps it’s for the parents and not the kids. At least they will have a memory of a happy day among all the sick days and hospital stays. Looking at it that way, where the memories are scattered around perhaps it’s OK. But I’m still not convinced.

I always did like being the 'Devils Advocate'. I'm able to argue almost any side, whether I believe it or not, just to keep the discussions going.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Moon and Park

For DA, we had a nice full moon last week. I’ve written of the Vegas moon before, but whenever we drove up from San Diego it always seemed that the moon was so much bigger and brighter here. Guess it’s the clear air and lack of moisture. B went out early one morning and caught the moon over our pool house just before sunrise.

Through the trees it looked just as bright.

The weather was rather pleasant a few days last week, and E wanted to go to the park. She climbs in the wagon when she and B are out back and looks over saying “Go – go”.

Our back yard is large, and she likes to wander around looking at things and poking around, but at the park she has lots of grass to run on.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Visit Rumors

Oh, excitement. Rumors abound (well, OK, not abound maybe but I'm putting them out) that one of the bloggers I frequently read is coming to visit Las Vegas. Hopefully I'll get to meet them in person! Well, I'm excited, don't know if they want to meet me or not but if I find out where they are staying then, well, I'm not beyond stalking. (oh, please, don't mean to scare you away)

Someone in the past supposedly was coming out but then disappointment ended up not showing up. I will not name names, but I'll point fingers. See, there's where my fingers are pointing. You know who I'm talking about.

Talking like this I guess that some day I'll have to show up at somebody else's place.

Someday maybe pictures of somebody that hasn't appeared too often in pictures. At least I haven't seen many. Oh, but then they may take pics of me. Hmmm.

I've read of blog parties in Houston and England and Paris that I would have liked to have made. Maybe someday I'll get to traveling again. But when you live in one of the destination cities of the world, and can see a pyramid and the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower and a lake in Italy full of fountains and Rome and lots of other places all while driving home from work, well, why go anywhere else?

Tree trimming

For Virginia Gal it’s E Friday!!

Let’s get topical now. We had a tree trimming for a little one that went into her bedroom. Now she keeps going in there wanting the tree lights turned on. Don’t know what she’ll say when it comes down.

She did very well with the appropriately sized ornaments. Couldn’t quite figure out what to do with some beaded garland though. Glad she doesn’t know about jump ropes yet.

Everything she does seems to involve intense concentration.

Her air’s getting longer, and not as neat and wispy as it was.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Looks like I should change the name of this from InVegas to WithGrandkid. Guess it means I should get out more often and take my camera with me.

Coming up this weekend are two unrelated running events. The Las Vegas Marathon is on Sunday - start at Mandalay Bay, run up the Strip between all the big casinos (that part sounds like fun), turn left up the hill, goes south a block from our house - I had pics last year - then left again and back downhill to Mandalay. I am impressed with anyone that can run 26 miles without puking. Here's a link to my post on the 2005 marathon

On Saturday down on Freemont Street is the Santa Run
. Five K run or a one K walk, but you must wear a Santa outfit. So far there are over 2,000 people signed up and 5,000 expected. Now that would be an interesting thing to see, all the red and white bouncing past.

Recently E's mom has started to put a hairband on. I'm not sure I like it - that little halo of whispy curls seems rather attractive.
But they went to the park the other day, and stopped at the school playground to play(what else?) The trips each had a ball, and nobody would share. Somehow an extra tennis ball showed up, and somebody was happy.

And in our back yard, up on the picnic table playing with the leaves and tomatoes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Wednesday, nothing special happening around here this week. I’m responsible for some of the programs that run at night to process data here at work, and I still am getting phone calls at 2am about system problems, which require me to use my computer at home to connect to the systems here and figure out what has gone wrong and fix it. At least I don’t have to drive in, but it is pretty disruptive to my sleep. This morning it took about a half hour to figure out and fix a problem, then I ended up going back to bed and just lay there for an hour or so before I fell asleep. Some nights there are no phone calls, one night I got three calls, at 11, 1 and 3 – nicely spaced to really keep me from sleeping very well. Of course my boss still expects a full day of work after that.

This is what our collections floor looks like – quite a few low cubes, full of people with their heads down on the phone. We usually have around two hundred people in here making phone calls. They work in shifts from 5am to 9pm, seven days a week.

Christmas shopping – it was getting pretty boring, but with E around now I get to visit the toy stores and buy fun stuff again. It’s hard shopping for my wife – whenever she needs something we just buy it, and don’t save up things for Christmas. E isn’t at the point yet of understanding the concept, but next year will probably be pretty good. Now I know why grandparents spoil the kids, it’s so much fun.

We recently pulled out some crayons – E has learned to use them at restaurants, as most around here give kids a handful of crayons and something to color; keeps them busy waiting for the food to show up. So I got a box of washable ones, and B is teaching her to only use them in the coloring book.

She has more fun taking them out of the box and putting them back in then actually putting crayon to paper. Mostly just scribbles now, but it does keep her busy for a while.

You can see the assortment of toys we provide in the background. And Max is always around to provide supervision.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Walking pictures

The weather is getting cold, and it looks like my lunchtime walks are gone for the season. We’ve been running a little colder than normal for December, if we get a sunny day though I’ll be back out there. This morning when we got up it was 27f at our place. Driving in to work there was an area where somebody’s sprinklers went off, leaving a frozen trail of puddles on down the hill from their house. We are on watering restrictions here in Vegas, we can only water once a week, but since the plants still grow and we don’t get any rain you’ve got to keep your sprinklers going. It’s supposed to get up to 56f this afternoon – so that does provide us with an almost thirty degree swing from low to high.

My walk takes me past a big field that was graded this past summer in preparation for more office buildings. The lot has sat untouched for the past four months or so, but a few weeks ago a big crane has appeared.

In the lower right corner is a part of the crane that hasn’t been attached yet – they can add pieces to the boom that let a crane like this reach up to the top of a ten story building. Each piece comes on a separate truck, they only add as much as will be needed by the job. You can’t get a feel for how big this thing is from the photo – but the blue objects hanging from the cable are power generators. It’s common practice on construction projects to hang the generators to prevent theft – these are popular things to steal. The tires on the generators are about the same size as car tires, with the generator box itself being about six feet high when sitting on the ground. So the top of the treads on the crane are about head hight. The buildings to the left are probably similar to what will be put on this lot.

Off in the distance beyond the crane are some boxed trees. Some of them have already been planted around the perimeter, but these are still sitting. They have watering systems hooked up to keep them alive.

The boxes for these trees are four feet high, with the trees themselves probably thirty or forty feet (ten meters) above that. Not like the little things I buy to put in my yard. But hey, this is Vegas – where Steve Wynn put sod down on his new golf course back when – yes, an entire golf course, not just the greens, in sod. Guess they didn’t want to wait for grass to grow. Just as they don’t want to wait for trees to grow, just bring in the big ones.

And here’s the last shot for the day – E picking tomatoes last week.

You can see a little green one in her hand. She likes picking her own tomatoes and grapes, but nothing ripe right now. Grapes are all gone, and that’s the last try for tomato – with the freeze this weekend the tomato plants are flat on the ground now, no more picking from this batch.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


It's getting on holiday time, and in the US among other things that means a lot of baking of treats. Cookies are about my favorite thing to make, they are usually fairly easy to do (if you have a recipe and ingredients), don't take overly too much time to do, and you can enjoy the smells and tastes as you go along. Plus they are easy to share.

We have tried one new idea, and that's the group cookie party. This is where you invite some friends over, have them bring along stuff to bake their favorite cookies; either ask them to bring along all the ingredients or pass the recipe so you can gather everything. Some cookies require time for the dough to rise or settle, if so they then bring along the pre-prepared stuff ready to bake. Five or six friends make for a nice group, have plenty of wine around as a counterpoint to the sweet cookies, and just bake up lots. Then split them up so everybody gets an equal share of everything. That way you've got an assortment of home made cookies you might not have made yourself.

As an alternative this year I thought I'd send bags of parts out to some friends and have them all bake the same cookies, and share the results via photo. Kind of hard to taste them when you are far apart, and much more fun if you pick friends who haven't done this type before.

So I picked three people that appear to like to cook and shipped off bags of chocolate bits, with a recipe on the back on how to make traditional American Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. This really started because Udge said something about cookie recipes. So I shipped some off to him (haven't received any response yet there) along with Clare. She didn't know they would spread out on cooking, and ending up with a gloriously large cookie. I don't know why she cut it up, that way she could have eaten only one and really enjoyed herself. Guess she wanted to share.

I also sent some to Lisa, who didn't make cookies but bickies (whatever those are). As proof she included a recent local events calendar as proof they were just made. They still look good, whatever you call them.

Well, here's the way I make them. From mixing bowl out onto cookie sheets. They are made with Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bits. In addition to what's on the recipe printed on the bag I add some cinnamon, walnuts and raisins.

I use the double layer cookie sheets so as to keep the bottoms from getting too crisp. And out of the oven.

And on to the cooling racks. I like them chewy rather than crispy, so I just do the eleven minutes the recipe suggests.

Of course you have to try each tray full, just to be sure they came out OK. And they are so much nicer warm.

So if any of you are overseas and want to try your hand, make some up and send me the pics, and if these chips aren't available, email me and I'll send you a bag.

As the weeks progress I promise pics of the other varieties we will be doing. I say we, as I do most of the goodie baking, but B does have some old family recipes for pecan sandies and some other good ones. Email me if you want recipes.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday wasting time

And I thought the questions were rather unusual. No choice for my Busby Berkely musicals. But for Miranda

How evil are you?

Nya nya!